A center that provides vital services for locally released inmates has lost its founder and director, as well as its assistant director, but will continue to offer its programs under new director Lorie Gretzinger, who took the helm June 1.
Founded in 2014, the Hope Center of Warren County offers a variety of classes, support groups and counseling.
The center started with founder and former director Carol Ann Richardson, former co-director Harry Green and three volunteers as a place for people who were just released from jail with no resources and nowhere to go. The center is completely community funded. According to Richardson, the organization now has 28 volunteers.
“They had no support system and that’s what I wanted to be for them,” said Richardson.
Richardson and Green first came together at a ministerial meeting, talking for months of the possibility for The Hope Center, then it all fell into place.
The center would do what it could to help the community by offering classes that court services recognized as vital to curb recidivism and acclimate former inmates back into the community with better life skills. Those classes and support groups target anger management and parenting skills, as well as addressing domestic violence issues.
“The community support has been phenomenal and we have a good board,” said Richardson.
Added Green, “The fact they have issues is not good for them but it’s good they have a place to go and they see us as a place to help. The purpose is to give a hand up, not a hand out. We don’t hand out any financial assistance. Our main focus is to help people through life difficulties and struggles.”
Green continued, “It’s so good to see someone who comes through the program when they finally get it. We have people who have not had custody of their children, have no job and owe debts, but through our processes, they are able get their children back, have a home to live in and get back on their feet. The joy on their face when that happens, it is incredible. Seeing the changes in people’s lives is rewarding for us.”
Richardson has retired from her position as director, with plans to focus on her pastor duties at her own church.
“I did what God wanted me to do and now my season is over. I am at the age where I can only do one thing. It has been a challenge but it has been so worth it,” said Richardson.
Green has also retired from his position with The Hope Center as co-director. His plans are to continue to pastor to First Presbyterian Church.
“We always knew from the beginning we would be on a rotating system. I am at the point of retirement. I will still be here close and I will still be involved. I just won’t be on the board. The program is doing extremely well. There are capable people who are running it and some of them are even better organized than I was,” said Green.
Lorie Gretzinger assumed duties of the director June 1.
“I want to add my culture and discipline to it. I am a licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor and we have a lot of need for that here,” said Gretzinger.
Gretzinger said she wants the center to be a hub of activity and a place for connecting.
“If someone doesn’t have anywhere to go and doesn’t want to be alone, I want them to feel welcomed enough to come in, have a cold bottle of water, sit down and wait to be hooked up with someone or something to do,” said Gretzinger.
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, or for more information about the Hope Center, call 507-7800.