RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) — If you ask anyone who has spent time behind bars, chances are they struggled to get back on their feet. A faith-based organization specializing in rehabilitation services and other community programs is on a mission to change that with its new location in Richmond.
It’s been just over two weeks since Dale Battle was released from Chesterfield County Jail. Cellphone video captured the big moment as Thomas Mundy, a resource case manager for Metro Community Ministries Inc. and a returning citizen himself, arrived to pick him up. A warm embrace followed.
Battle tells NBC12 he’s ready for a fresh start.
“I hurt a lot of people who love me and care about me during my time in and out of prison,” Battle said. “I am now at a point where I have to make changes.”
While Virginia’s recidivism rate is just 22%, the second-lowest in the nation, Battle’s past struggle with a substance use disorder has led to multiple returns to prison over three decades. Admittedly, each version has created some fear of having enough support to start over.
“Being a convicted felon and trying to get a job, you’re kind of looked down on,” Battle explained.
Metro Community Ministries Inc (MCMI) is doing everything in its power, with the help of community partnerships, to change that. The faith-based organization has been around for just over 50 years and offers support services, emergency food banks, clothing closets and more.
Founded in San Diego, with offices across the country, the organization now has a presence inside the Virginia Career Works building at Radford Avenue’s Willow Lawn. The location served as a one-stop-shop for clients like Battle.
Program Manager Monica McMillan and Mundy have been with Battle every step of the way. The team believes in building relationships with clients even before they are released.
“I think it’s critical that you build that relationship with your client before the release because you can get a sense of who they are as a person. So when they come home from the release, you can spot irregularities,” Mundy explained.
“We believe in second chances,” McMillian said. “We believe just because someone makes a mistake doesn’t define who they are.”
With the help of referrals from transition counsellors, inmates aged 18 or older, not imprisoned for a sex offense and due for release between 20 and 180 days, are eligible for its New Path program. The program offers everything from workforce development to help with basic needs like clothing, housing, and medical benefits. Assessments are conducted during the process to help MCMI better understand the client’s goals.
There is also an eight-week program focusing on job readiness.
“This eight-week course will go from how to interview, how to write a cover letter, how to have a positive relationship with others,” said McMillian, who went through a long list of offers.
Mundy, who now shines as an example of what life could be like for a returning citizen, is just proud to be part of this mission to help those who dream of a second chance.
After 13 years behind bars for drug trafficking, Mundy became a free man in July 2020. He promised himself and his family that he would never come back. It was his third return to prison. He was first jailed for selling drugs when he was 18.
“At the time, I had a hopeless mindset,” Mundy said. “I thought the only way for me to get the life I thought I deserved was to do what I was doing.”
But, Mundy says a lot has changed. He now walks with purpose and helps others like Battle recognize theirs.
“I had to learn that in order for me to get better, I have to do better, and in order for me to do better, I have to start loving myself,” said Battle, who hopes to land a job as a painter or a truck driver. elevator using its certification.
Metro Community Ministries is ready to accept more clients. They also hope that other community partners will help these men and women succeed both personally and professionally.
You can contact Program Manager Monica McMillan at [email protected]
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