August 15, 1997 Proposal for an Okanagan Valley Community Chaplaincy
The Story Behind Bridges’ Logo
Bridges logo provides a picture of our prisons surrounded by a deep gorge with a raging river in the bottom. Though almost all will swim across to escape for a time, less than 25% will successfully scale the steep slope to sustained freedom on the other side.
In fact 75% will return to crime and end up back in prison within 5 years.
The sad truth is that every repeat trip to prison weakens the offenders ability to escape the revolving doors of our prison sytem.
Other items in the logo are the prison guard tower which represent the hold that satan has on the lives of our clients. The bridge represents the call of this society to mobilize the church to find practical ways to assist victims, offenders and their families in putting their lives together. The mountains represent hope, while the sun on the other side represents the freedom of new life in Christ.
Bridges letterhead and business cards display an E.C.G. line as a reminder that only a heartbeat separates any of us from eternity. The spiritual battle is real and the eternal destiny of human souls hangs in the balance.
The Story Behind Bridges’ Director
1) Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.
This young man was born in Switzerland in 1953 to missionary parents on their way to one of the poorest & hottest countries in Africa. One of the primary tasks of that missionary was developing a Christian club for boys and girls, something like the scouting program. Education for missionary kids took place away from home in what is known in Canada as a residential school. Only difference is that so far, no one has offered financial compensation for the years students spent there. This young mans life in Africa ended when at the age of 12 his father was sent home to Ottawa to spend a year in hospital recovering from various tropical diseases. From 13-15 that boy moved to Quebec where his father pastored Peoples church in downtown Montreal, and the son got involved in leadership in the church boys club.
In 1970 the family moved clear across Canada to Vanderhoof north of Prince George where the not so godly church youth group, soon introduced the young man to drinking. That mixed with his raging hormones and some really cute but naughty church girls; soon drew his heart away from God, and caused serious problems for the new minister in town. Having tasted and been seduced by the devils bait, the young man became enamoured with the life he had never known, and at 16 he made a conscious decision to abandon the “small-town” faith he had grown up with and left home to begin a 15 year journey away from God. Faced with new social and intellectual pressures, the supposed logic of science and reason caused him to become increasingly ambivalent about Christian religious ideals. Like many others in the early 70’s he threw responsibility to the wind and set off to find himself.
He grew his hair long, joined the hippie drug culture, and spent little time working, but lots of time expanding his mind with mood altering drugs. In the first couple of years his thumb, stolen vehicles and freight trains took him across most of Canada, the United States and Mexico from coast to coast to coast. To make ends meet he learned how to panhandle, steal, deal and bartend. When not couch surfing, he slept under the stars on beaches, park benches, under bridges, in abandoned houses, cars, chicken coops, rescue missions, and a number of jail cells.
He became passionate about protesting the status quo and issues of war, poverty, injustice and inequality. His heroes of the day were outspoken leaders of the social revolution including Cesar Chavez, Che Guevara, Eldridge Cleaver and Timothy Leary. It seemed obvious to him that they were more relevant and making a greater difference in the world than the church-ridden, status quo of middle class America. They were going to change the world!
The new environment he found himself in, encouraged questioning almost all of the values of his upbringing. In his quest for truth and opening his mind to broader horizons, he dabbled in eastern religions like Bahia, Ekancar and Buddhism. He learned log home building and dreamed of moving to the country. After renting an acreage which he named Dizzies’ Farm, where Rutland’s Willow Park mall sits today; he got himself a couple cats, 2 German shepherds, a cow, 100 chickens and of course a large garden with some BC bud. With 5 bedrooms and a barn, the house became a magnet for American draft dodgers and other dreamers about the social revolution.
After getting stabbed, having his heart broken when one of his roommates stole his girlfriend, and the house being set on fire during a party – the couple year communal living experiment fell apart.
It seemed that the only way his back to the land dream would ever become reality was if he went to work for some honest money. So in 1976 he stole a vehicle, drove to Ft McMurray and got into construction. His plan was to earn enough to come back to the Okanagan one day and buy an acreage near Cherryville or Rock Creek. In his new frenzy to make money, besides working 12 hour days he bought a taxi which he drove at nights & rented out in the daytime. In 1978 having saved enough for a down payment, he bought his first house near Grand Prairie, and then leveraged that to buy a lot on which he built a triplex. Next he leveraged that to buy a lot where he built a spec house. At the age of 26 having accumulated $250,000 in debt (which in today’s values would likely be about $2,000,000) God used a series of circumstances, including a couple of serious construction injuries and a real estate market crash, to bring him back to the Okanagan in 1981 with his common-law spouse and two young sons. After 15 years of gorging himself on all the pleasures of this world, he was tired, broken and feeling morally and spiritually destitute. Neither the drugs, sex, nor money – had brought him peace or contentment and in fact had only brought him conflict, turmoil and emptiness.
With his ability to borrow severely restricted, he moved into a 40 year old shack in Oyama (near Winfield) and went to work on the Revelstoke Dam. A couple of weeks later his sweetheart with two babies at home in diapers, phoned to say she had no running water. Thankfully a wonderful old orchardist (Tommy Turner) volunteered to spend a couple of days repairing a broken water line from the well to the house at no charge. In spite of his pony tail and the fact that his garden was half marijuana plants, Tommy began to befriend and go out of his way to assist the young prodigal and his family. One day (after about 15 year’s absence) he reluctantly went to church with Tommy and his wife, and they introduced them to the rest of that small group of believers, like they were their proud parents.
Through the selfless actions of Tommy Turner, that prodigal began seeing Jesus Christ in a new light. In the midst of his self induced brokenness, from having turned his back on God and His church; Tommy Turners non judgmental acts of kindness, cut thru the darkness of his heart like a knife and he knew without a doubt that God was real. That He had been silently, lovingly waiting for him all along. Tommy’s kindness was like a well deserved slap in the face, to one who knew the truth, but had chosen to reject it.
For those who haven’t already figured it out, that prodigal is me. Because of Tommy’s non judgmental kindness and acceptance, in 1983 at the age of thirty, I made my best conscious decision ever, to turn from my sin and back to God. Though I certainly did not deserve it, God graciously welcomed me back into His family, and at Kelowna’s hot sands beach, where I had spent several prior years getting high and dealing drugs; my wife and I entered the waters of Okanagan Lake for baptism. And so a very chaotic and shameful period of my life began to wind down.
As I began to study scripture, I came understand how truly radical the life and message of Jesus Christ must have been to the established political and religious order of His day. Jesus Christ lived and walked among the poor, the marginalized, the demonized, the victimized, the despised and forsaken. And though they like me deserved rejection and punishment, in the midst of their brokenness, instead of going in for the kill, Jesus offered a quiet non-confrontational acceptance, love and forgiveness. The ways of most other revolutionary leaders I could think of, were characterized by angry confrontation, incendiary rhetoric, and violent actions aimed at forcing change by overthrowing the political powers they despised.
As a new Christian, the rest of the 80s were spent getting to know Jesus, working at the Vernon school board to get myself out of debt, learning to be content with what God had given me, raising 2 sons and something like my father before me, running a Christian boys club. I mention the boys club, because the recreational activities I have implemented as a key component of building bridges between offenders & the church, come from my childhood experiences in those clubs.
2) Your calling is where your joy meets the worlds’ greatest need.
In 1990 I began an 8 year stint taking volunteers into the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre with Prison Fellowship. It was there in 1993 that I was asked to co lead a 10 week pre release Bible study, at the end of which were supposed to find sponsors or supportive individuals in the communities the inmates would be released to. Unable to find any Christians willing to be available to these guys on release – after running the course 3 times, we dropped it. However God used the failure of that program, to plant a burden and a corresponding vision in my spirit, that the church was called not just to preach the gospel, (something we have mastered) but to live and be the gospel in the lives of those we have preached to. Over the next couple of years God brought people and situations into my life that helped clarify the vision and in 1998 led to the incorporation of the Bridges to New Life Society. A year and a half later in January 2000 – in a step of faith, I quit my comfortable, well paying job as a carpenter at the Vernon school board, to start putting legs to the dream.
As I look back over my adult life, I see such a huge contrast between the 15 years when “I” tried to “take charge”, and the 25 years since “surrendering” it to God. Those early years were filled with turmoil, confusion and lack of direction, while the last 25 have been very focused, purposeful & satisfying. Ps. 37:4 says “Commit your ways to the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” About 18 years ago God gave me a dream and I count it a rare privilege to have been able to play a part in seeing that dream become reality. I can honestly tell you that in spite of never ending challenges, I could not have chosen a more fulfilling or satisfying life than God has given me, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.
I’m not sure if you are aware of the fact that there are only a handful of prison aftercare ministries on the planet, and so this has and continues to be a figure it out as we go, kind of work. Having said that I have been privileged to have had opportunity to visit, get to know and learn from some of the world leaders in this field. Even so it is has sometimes been a bit like walking in the dark with a blindfold on, and yet all along the way, it has been truly amazing to see how God has directed our steps. In some cases due to God given wisdom (far beyond my own), while in many other cases simply imposed on us by circumstances of either open doors or intense opposition.
Never the less, it is an absolute miracle that from a dream given to a common carpenter working from his home, over the last 13 years 188 volunteers supported by 900 donors have recorded contact with almost 3400 clients. Every month now 3 full time staff and 45 volunteers are having contact with at least 170 clients on both sides of the bars, and we now work out of a lovely ¾ million dollar building in Kelowna which is almost paid for. When we started 2/3 of our contacts took place behind prison walls and 1/3 in the community. Today as we grow more aligned with our aftercare mandate, the ratio is pretty much reversed with 1/3 now taking place behind bars and 2/3 in the community. The truth is that shift has not all been by design, but has in large part been forced on us by God using a prison warden strongly opposed to our cause. He, like I once was, is a backslidden Christian and we ask you to join us in praying that he too would be drawn back to God. In spite of seemingly endless difficulties and opposition, at each step in the journey we have enjoyed Divine provision of joy, peace, strength, finances, protection and help – as more and more of His people join the movement.
A little aside is that in 1998 a Christian man engaged to do a financial review of Bridges books right after we had purchased and renovated our building on Sutherland, declared to me that Bridges had now entered the same league as Trinity and Evangel churches. At the time knowing that our budgets were no where near comparable, I gave my head a shake and quickly dismissed his comment.
3) The best use of life is to spend it on something that outlasts it.
4) “It’s better to burn out, than it is too rust.” Neil Young
5) “Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw
Prior to my near death experience in 1999 my 80 hour per week schedule was Monday in the office, Tuesday at the Vernon drop In & Overcomers, Wednesday in Kelowna doing drop in, Halfway House visits and Overcomers’. Thursday I was in Kamloops doing a drop in, Halfway House visits and Overcomers’. Friday I was either in the Kamloops prison or in Kelowna dealing with the office or safe house. On weekends I was either doing recreational events or preparing to speak in some church. At the same time, I was doing everything in my power to acquire a physical presence for Bridges in Kamloops, where it seemed that every door was being slammed in my face. To be quite honest, I felt like a trapped hamster running as fast as I could in my little wheel, nearing exhaustion but not knowing how I could take a break. God used that accident, which to be quite candid knocked the stuffing out this turkey and probably took at least 10 years off my life, to open my eyes to the reality that Bridges had gotten too big for the top down operational methodology that had worked quite successfully to that point. It was time for a paradigm shift or in other words a metamorphosis from one way of thinking to another; which in our case should lead to a transformation of the way we do business.
6) “Forgetting what lies behind…Let us hold fast to what we have attained…and press on towards the goal, for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:14,16
Today, I no longer see it as being my responsibility to be everywhere trying to do or manage every thing. Because of the volume of people we are now dealing with, of necessity the organization requires more of an administrative manager, ensuring that all of the necessary structure, training and supervision is in place, so that others can do the front line work effectively, safely and efficiently. I am discovering that becoming properly organized to effectively manage 3 full time staff and 45+ volunteers interacting with 170 plus clients (in our safe house, in prison, halfway houses, Overcomers’, drop ins, recreation events & more) every month really is a big job. The fact that Bridges clients & volunteers are spread out across this provinces southern half, adds an extra dimension to our challenges.
Any one in business will tell you that customer satisfaction is key to business longevity. So when we ask a volunteer to write or mentor someone, Bridges has a responsibility to the client to ensure that is in fact happening in a reasonable time frame and on a consistent basis, and that there is a certain level of integrity to that interaction. To the volunteer we have an obligation to make sure that they are keeping their end of the agreement, getting adequate support and not getting them selves into difficulty. We need to ensure that promises we make to clients are kept and that volunteers feel they are getting adequate support without feeling harassed if they haven’t had interaction with the client that month. When there are 170+ relationships happening monthly & growing that is a big project, which will only get larger. So as we work to develop proper processes to manage all of that, we covet your prayers and your patience. Our motto, “If it can be done better, then good is not enough.” means we are always working to improve things, but the changes we are talking about are significant and will take time. This transformation or metamorphosis is also a good thing, because it will ensure that when it is time for me to move on, the vision that God has graciously allowed me to give birth to, will not flounder but rather continue to grow and become ever more effective at the mission God has commissioned it to fulfill.
Now if you have heard nothing else I said so far, it is important that you hear this; I did not say I am quitting. I have received no direction that it is my time to go, but tonight I want to tell you that I have been blessed over the years to enjoy the unwavering support of my dear wife Brenda and Bridges board, and today Bridges is blessed to have two quality people in the persons of Kelly and Craig currently working in our office. Kelly came to us with a wealth of experience, from the accounting department of the huge 100 year old international Christian Blind Mission. Craig with a background in justice, sales, property management, construction and pastoring; was hired in February of this year to do volunteer client development. Because of his daily interaction with clients and volunteers, more and more he is becoming the very capable public face of Bridges. So I want to assure you our supporters, that the transformation that has begun is going well and I am proud of the quality people that God has brought us, especially our many volunteers. I also want to reaffirm my sincere appreciation to all who have partnered and stood with us thru these early formative years, when there were a lot of doubters in this mission. Anything good that has been accomplished has been as a direct result of Gods people listening to and obeying His voice. Without your buy in, none of this would have been possible.
7) “It’s every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.”
– Albert Einstein
8) “Nothing we do changes the past, but everything we do changes the future. Every person is responsible for building the future, planting for the next generation. What are you leaving to the children of our time?”
Tonight (Nov.5,2011) I have shared my story not to glorify myself, but to demonstrate what can happen in a life surrendered to Him. Some in this room have bought into satan’s lie that because of addiction, disability or age, there is not much you can contribute to kingdom building. My life is the incredible story of God’s amazing grace and forgiveness. If anyone deserved to have God turn his back on Him, it should have been me. However in spite of my open rebellion, when I truly repented -just like in Isaiah 61:1-7 God forgave and turned my mourning into gladness, and my ashes into beauty. The accident I had two years ago means that today my energy levels and memory are not what they were, but God is not finished with me yet, nor is he finished with you. He has promised that 10) “Those who wait for the Lord, will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Isa 40:31 I hope that sharing my story has served to inspire some in this room. Because if someone like me from very humble beginnings, with no special gifting or education, can live to see his dreams become reality, so too can you!
11) Live each day as if it were your last.
In North America today the prison population is growing ten times faster than the rest of society. Due to the large number of offenders coming from the Okanagan valley into our prisons, in 1996 the province purchased property in Kelowna for a new jail. With the numbers growing so quickly and budgets being tight, governments are scrambling to find solutions. Ujjal Dosanjh, B.C.’s attorney general, has recently come out in favor of alternative sentencing for first-time offenders, and Phillip Owen, Vancouver’s mayor is begging for more treatment centers. The fact that 80% of crime is committed by ex-offenders makes it quite obvious that our present system of incarceration is not working.
Having been involved in Prison Fellowship as a volunteer since 1991, 1 have become aware of a deep desire for change on the part of many inmates. It has been a delight to see numerous individuals birthed into the family of God, and to watch them grow through many hours of in prison discipleship. After all of this effort I have watched helplessly as these same men fall almost without exception back in with old habits and friends as soon as they walk out the door to freedom. Why is it that 3 out of 4 of them will return to prison?
Recidivism is not just statistic, but a very real factor in the lives of most inmates, including those who have made a profession of faith in Christ. They have good intentions, but in the real world they are like orphans, with no church family or home to nurture and care for them. Without proper support they don’t stand a chance, and will become just another statistic in the revolving door of our prisons. There are times when their spirits cry out for help, but it seems no one hears.
Incarceration changes very few for the better and has a crippling effect on most. On leaving prison the client is moving from an environment where life is a routine, with little opportunity for decision-making, and where all the necessities are provided with little personal effort. Now all that support has been pulled out from under him. For a new believer wanting a fresh start, this is not too different from being thrown into a large body of water without knowing how to swim.
During this difficult transition from prison to freedom, most are completely out of their element when it comes to being able to connect with those who could help keep them from old ways that would surely pull them down.
Search for Solutions
God has given me a special love for these individuals and their plight. For several years now I have been keenly aware of the need for a bridge to get clients from the prison chapel into the church on the outside, where they can get the support they need. My struggle has been to determine what that bridge should look like. Does someone out there have some answers?
In my early search for solutions I developed a program called the “Welcome Home” for placing ex-offenders into room and board situations. To date I have been unable to make use of the concept. In April of 1996 my father invited me to a COPE conference in Edmonton where I received an introduction to what some others are doing in prison ministry. During a conversation with Frank Constantino, I was invited to attend the Bridge residential treatment center in Florida to see first hand what he was doing in aftercare. In Jan. 97 it was my privilege to spend a week at the Bridge and also take in COPE’s international conference in Orlando. I was most impressed by the work that was being done at the Bridge and would love to see something similar done in the Okanagan at some point. I thank God for the wealth of information that COPE has made me aware of relevant to this ministry. My dilemma is what to do with it? How can I, a carpenter, fulfill this yearning in my spirit to be able to do something significant to help some of these men break out of this cycle?
Several years ago when I was driving two hours to the prison five or six times a month, chaplain Clint Heigh suggested that I should consider working as a community chaplain for the Okanagan valley. My first introduction to an individual filling that role was Al Ingram who works for Monty Lewis in Fredericton, NB. We were able to visit in Edmonton and again in Orlando. In May of 97 Clint Heigh phoned to inform me that Pierre Allard would be speaking in Kamloops. I was unable to attend, but in talking on the phone Pierre informed me that his next priority for community chaplaincy, after Vancouver was the Okanagan and encouraged me to put together a proposal as soon as possible.
The Plan / Solution
After seeking the Lord’s leading for sometime I believe a “Community Chaplaincy” position will provide an opportunity to begin to build a link between the prison chapel and the church on the outside. I view the community chaplain as one who would assist individuals leaving incarceration, who want help in bringing lasting change for good to their lives by assisting them to establish meaningful relationships with the church and their community.
Jesus’ plan has never been for rehabilitation, but rather for transformation. Most of these men are dysfunctional spiritually and in many other ways. Rehabilitation means to restore to a former state. For most criminals there is no former state worth building on. What we really need to do is extricate them from old familiar territory and reestablish them in a totally new environment with new friends, contacts and support.
At the very least someone needs to be in place to direct those who want help. The community chaplain could act as a guide or life-raft during the critical period of re-engagement, to assist in making contacts that will increase the client’s chances of staying on track. My time with Prison Fellowship has allowed me to develop numerous relationships from all walks of life, which will benefit this endeavor.
Churches, while well meaning have discovered that handouts have little lasting benefit. My goal would be to identify church and community resources throughout the valley and to utilize them most effectively for the purpose of helping the ex-offender become a productive member of society. We ought never provide resources that will create dependency; rather assistance with some form of accountability will help the client develop self-discipline as he learns personal independence.
To raise public awareness, I would accept invitations to speak in area churches and seek to be a vocal advocate for ex-offender needs in the community. I would also try to encourage co-operation amongst those working in this field and entice others to get involved.
As a community chaplain I would need to establish working relationships with as many local churches as possible. I would also seek to develop good relations with chaplains throughout the province, who could then refer men leaving prison that they deem to be sincere in desiring positive change. To maintain relations with the inmate population, I would organize periodic in prison chapel services, workshops and seminars, as well as one on one visits. There may also be occasions when it would be appropriate to call on men in the city lock up.
The family of the one serving time is often sentenced to poverty, shame, and rejection. If numbers warrant, it may be necessary to start a support group for these individuals. Practical assistance would provide a natural opportunity to encourage involvement with a local church. This could include help with the necessities of living, moral support and assistance in arranging prison visits. When appropriate I would work with client families to strengthen relationships and effect restoration.
BridgeBuilders / Overcomers’
Most ex-offenders are carrying a lot of baggage and distorted thinking that needs to be addressed before they can become productive members of society. Proper after care provides an environment in which an ex-offender can learn to apply “correct” principles of living and decision making, to real life situations with proper guidance and direction. The objective is to deal effectively with life controlling problems and develop a new equilibrium for living.
I would make it a priority to work with local churches in establishing a weekly support group to help clients in this critical area. Frank Constantino has combined all his experience at the Bridge to give us an intensive six-month life-changing program called “Bridge Builders” for dealing with addictions using practical Biblical applications
This program like the shorter Overcomers’ has proven very effective in its use of a daily moral inventory and once a week group discipleship meetings to help clients gain victory over all sorts of addictions and behavioral dysfunction.
A great deal of effort needs to be expended to break down walls of fear, pride, hurt and guilt while getting rid of negative influences, and the lack of initiative learned in prison. With the walls removed we can then begin to teach lifestyle issues such as responsibility, self-discipline, learning to set a budget and live by it, proper male/female relationships and learning to overcome problems instead of avoiding them.
In an ideal situation I could meet the ex-offender as he steps off the bus the day of his release. I would take him to my office and we could visit while he enjoys coffee and a donut.
Our first topic of discussion would be housing. I would need to be familiar with numerous sources of accommodation from rescue missions to room and board situations. From time to time there may be opportunity to implement the “Welcome Home” program for placing certain ex-offenders in Christian homes as boarders. The next topic would be food, so I would need to be familiar with local soup kitchens, food banks etc.
Then I would concern myself with what his needs were in respect to clothing and basic home furnishings. For this I would need to know the local thrift stores. As far as finances go, welfare will provide initial funding for most of these men within a week of applying. After discussing his addictions, I would inform him the date and location of the next Overcomers’ or Bridge Builders meeting. We would discuss his plans with respect to church involvement and I would encourage him not to miss his first Sunday.
Finding employment is one of the greatest needs of this endeavor. In Kelowna we are fortunate to have Project Newstart acting as an employment agency for men on parole. I will try to work co-operatively with them to assist clients in finding suitable employment, learning the value of working to get ahead, and finding satisfaction from doing a job to the best of one’s ability. I would also like to help men set career goals and assist them in finding the proper training to see it through. Establishing realistically attainable goals can give men with little hope a renewed sense of optimism for living.
I have made several people aware of this opportunity and asked them to pray that God’s will would be clearly revealed. The green light I am waiting for is the approval and financial commitment of Corrections Canada. My desire is to attend a training seminar for “community chaplaincy” in mid November and use that as springboard to full time ministry involvement at year-end. (Lord willing)
My next step would be to seek out four or five godly men who share the vision to assist in working out the details, keep me focused and to whom I would be accountable. When the vision is clearly defined and agreed upon, the next step would be to organize a fund raising banquet with a high profile speaker. (I have been told not to expect full funding from the government.)
At the outset I expect to use my home for an office to keep costs down. To ensure ready access to clients who may not have a home phone number I would expect to need a cell phone and a 1-800 number, as I will be long distance to most callers. Although I live midway between Kelowna and Vernon, I expect our client base to one day include all of the Okanagan, Kamloops and West Kootenay regions.
There is a possibility that I could work one day a week at the provincial prison in Kamloops. This would serve several purposes including valuable experience, inmate contact, and potential income. The other days could possibly be targeted at specific areas; i.e. one day each; for Kelowna, Penticton, and Vernon, and another day for wherever the need is greatest that week.
Only God knows what this ministry may one day look like. (written August 15, 97)
CONSTITUTION June 26, 98
ARTICLE 1 – NAME
The name of the society is the “Bridges to New Life Society”
ARTICLE 2 – PURPOSE
This non profit society is a “community chaplaincy” service whose objective is to facilitate healing and wholeness, without prejudice or discrimination, in the life of any person touched by our criminal justice system.
The purposes for which incorporation is sought are as follows:
(1) To improve the quality of life of adult offenders and their families by providing them with social, emotional and spiritual support through networking with government, community service agencies and local churches.
(2) To assist exoffenders with basic physical needs such as food, clothing, home furnishings and accommodation.
(3) To assist ex-offenders in becoming productive members of society through gainful employment and furthering education.
(4) To assist clients in gaining the necessary life skills to function effectively in society.
(5) To encourage clients to deal with emotional scars and dysfunctional behaviors through appropriate support groups or counseling.
(6) To effect victim offender reconcilliation where possible and where appropriate.
(7) To encourage clients to seek meaningful and lasting lifestyle change through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
(8) To produce and or distribute, relevant literature and audio or audio visual materials.
(9) To establish drop in centers, employment and counseling services, workshops and or thrift stores.
(10) To operate residential aftercare facilities.
• Beginning in the spring of 1991 Rob Baskin began making monthly trips to share Christ with men in Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre chapel services.
• After three years of volunteer involvement in chapel services in Kamloops prisons, Rob Baskin began to be concerned by the revolving door syndrome of our jails & came to the realization that there was no support network for offenders who wanted to follow Christ after release to BC’s southern interior.
• In 1994 Rob wrote a proposal for placing released offenders into Christian room and board situations. In early 95 he wrote another proposal for mobilizing volunteers from the church community in the Okanagan to build a support network for released offenders and their families. No backing was forthcoming so both projects were shelved.
• April 1996 Rob attended his first COPE conference in Edmonton (met Pierre Allard & Frank Constantino) and found fresh inspiration for his dream
• August 97 following some encouragement by Dr. Pierre Allard, C.S.C. Director of Chaplaincy, Rob submitted another similar proposal for community support to Corrections Canada.
• January 98 C.S.C. sent Rob to a week of Community Chaplaincy training in Fredericton, N.B.
• February 7, 98; twelve prominent individuals with an interest in corrections met to explore the potential for a community chaplaincy in the Okanagan.
• Over the next couple of months Rob gathered the constitutions of several similar organizations, and the B.C. Societies Act. From them he wrote the rough draft for a constitution.
• May 27, 98 six individuals met at the Kelowna Provincial Probation Office to complete the draft of Bridges constitution. June 24 we nominated our first board of directors and June 26, 98 Bridges received our Certificate of Incorporation from Victoria.
• September 98 the Bridge Builder 12 step program started in Kelowna
• Sept 20, 98 Rob’s home church of Evangel committed to give Bridges $7,000 for 2 years
• October 98 Bridges adopted their first draft of a Policy & Procedures Manual
• November 9, 98 we received our Charitable Status with Revenue Canada.
• December 8, 98 CSC commited to give Bridges $5,000 in seed money for Community Chaplaincy as part of Pierre Allard’s legacy
• In 1999 Rob began soliciting financial and community support, while visiting offenders in prison and began to develop support for ex-offenders and their families in the community.
• April 99 Rob took a three month unpaid leave from his school district job to test the viability of working full time for Bridges. All labor was on a volunteer basis.
• July 99 the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre committed to give Bridges $5,000 per year for travel to Kamloops from the Inmate Benefit fund
• October 1999 Bridges borad met to develop their first Strategic Plan
• November 99 Bridges held our first fundraising banquets with Dr. Pierre Allard
• Jan 15, 00 Rob quit his very comfortable carpentry job at Vernon School District & began working full time for Bridges.
• March 2002 opened our Vernon Drop In
• March 2003 opened our Kelowna Drop In
• April 2002 Bridges stoped using volunteers to do books-hired a secretary/bookeeper ½ day every 2 weeks
• July 2003 Bridges received permission to start printing B.B. Overcomers’ manuals
• Oct 2003 adopted a Plan to Protect
• January 2004 Vernon started Overcomers’
• February 2004 Bridges board developed a 2nd Strategic Plan
• July 2004 opened the Oyama thrift storehouse
• November 2004 Howard House closed
• January 2005 hired halftime secretary
• February 2005 Overcomers’ started in Kamloops
• September 2005 started weekly travel to Kamloops to begin aftercare work there.
• March 2006 opened a Kamloops Drop In at Church of the Nazarene
• July 2006 took over Coordination of CSC Volunteer Program for Kelowna/Vernon
• August 2007 Bridges board developed a 3rd Strategic Plan
• November 2007 Bridges purchased its first building in Kelowna
• April 2008 we held the grand opening of our first building housing a daily drop in, administrative head offices, an employment agency, thrift storehouse and a five bed safe house.