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Name: Cheryl Ashe

Favorite Charity: Dismas House of South Bend

Website: www.dismassouthbend.org

I first heard of Dismas House of South Bend when I was taking a college class and had to write a report about a local non-profit. I chose Dismas House.

Years later I was concerned because I have a godchild and a friend who both kept returning to prison each time they were released. I know each time they returned that family, friends and I were saddened. I am 58 years old and by the time my godchild leaves prison I may no longer be on this earth to help him. I want to make sure there is an organization that stands ready to help him when he leaves incarceration. Dismas House of South Bend is that organization. It has been in existence for almost 25 years and if a person finishes the Dismas House programs, he or she most likely will not return to prison again. The Dismas House recidivism rate is only 16% compared to the national rate which is between 64% to 75%, depending on the crime committed.

In a family setting, former offenders share the house with college students and together they create a positive environment. Due to the poor economy many Dismas House residents are unable to find a job and pay fees. Money is needed to keep the house open; also a way for the residents to earn credit toward their fees is needed. Several times a week, Dismas House residents gather to make beaded jewelry (earrings, bracelets, necklaces and key chains). The handmade jewelry is sold at art shows, craft fairs, churches and events through the community. While the sale of handmade jewelry helps pay for the cost of keeping Dismas House open, an equally important goal is met--for some residents it is the first time they've made money using a legal method. To see the pride on a man or woman's face when a piece of jewelry he/she made is sold at a craft fair (and knowing that the sold piece of jewelry is helping keep the house open) has caused my eyes to tear. The residents are learning artisan skills and business skills like merchandising, salesmanship, quality control, etc. Keeping Dismas House open is why I did not mind being in line at 5:00 am on a Saturday to get a booth at the local Farmers Market.

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