Editor's note: This is the 15th in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.



Breaking the cycle of incarceration, drug abuse and making poor choices is made even more difficult for inmates by the costs and pressures associated with re-entry into the real world. For this and other reasons, Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry aims to help people who have been incarcerated at the Finney County Jail to get back on their feet.

"A lot of people, when they're stuck in jail, are doing a lot of soul-searching, trying to figure out what they did wrong," said Scott Sherwin, Seeds of Hope board president. "They'll lose a job and get behind on everything, and so it's hard on the family."

The ministry is one of four new agencies added to the United Way's funding list this year, and is expecting to receive $10,000 from the organization.

"The United Way funds will go toward paying a part-time director's salary so that we can begin growing and looking for additional funding," said Marci Smith, director of Seeds of Hope.

The agency was formed in 2007, and according to its website, www.seedsofhope.org, provides services to inmates to help incarcerated and recently released individuals grow spiritually, intellectually and in character so that they can successfully transition out of the corrections system and become contributing members of their families and communities.

One way the agency does this is by offering Moral Reconation Therapy, the aim of which is to help clients make better decisions. MRT helps participants develop honesty, a sense of responsibility, and higher levels of moral reasoning. Participants are held accountable by their peers, who vote to decide if the participant has completed the exercises included in each of the 12 steps successfully and is ready to move to the next step.

"The Moral Reconation Therapy Program helps ex-offenders to look at themselves and their behaviors in order to begin changing their thinking, and thus their behaviors," Smith said.

Smith said the program is essential in reducing the rate of recidivism, or repeat trips to jail.

"About two-thirds of those released from jail or prison are re-incarcerated within three years," Smith said. "This program helps find resources for these offenders to change their lives and remain in the community."

The organization also provides clients with temporary cell phones, bus passes and/or gift cards for gas, so they can receive phone calls regarding employment and have transportation to job interviews. Funding for bus passes and the cell phone job search assistance portion of the program is provided by the First Christian Church's Annual Navajo Taco Dinner fundraiser.

For inmates who are interested in participating, the organization also conducts Bible studies at the Finney County Jail.

Smith said that in 2012, the organization served 189 men and women in the Finney County Jail.

Other services the organization provides is Within My Reach Relationship Skills classes, a mentoring program, assistance with GED-testing preparation and scholarship assistance.

In 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance provided $298,849 to implement SCRIMP beginning Oct. 1, 2010, and lasting through Sept. 30, 2012. The Finnup Foundation provided funding to continue the program through Dec. 31, 2013.

The local United Way's annual fundraising campaign goal is $560,000, which is $10,000 more than last year.

The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 United Way campaign include:

Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney & Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Habitat for Humanity; Kansas Children's Service League; Meals on Wheels.