YATESVILLE -- The residents of Reconciliation House have been working this Christmas season to serve the community they hope to rejoin soon.
Founder Angela Johnson moved the charity, which helps rehabilitate women who have recently been released from prison, to Monroe County from Jonesboro in 2003.
“In order to give back to the community that was helping them, we started delivering meals,” she explained.
They served just eight meals that first year, but that number has grown over the last decade. This year, the group has prepared 251 meals to distribute Christmas Day, which is actually a few less than the 275 they prepared last year.
“I was just telling them that some of the people on our list have passed away ... and some have gotten jobs,” Johnson said.
To get names for the list, Johnson hands out applications after Thanksgiving at the mobile food bank that the organization runs the third Wednesday of each month. She also distributes applications at the Department of Family and Children Services, the local senior center, the Board of Health and the Circle of Care Thrift Store.
“We want to serve everybody who needs some help,” Johnson said.
Besides the help of the home’s five residents, Johnson also had a trio of men from the Dismas Charities packaging desserts on Wednesday. Dismas is a halfway house in Macon, with a similar mission to that of Reconciliation House.
Alford Woods was among the group, along with Christopher Noland and Gromakio Baldwin.
“It’s liberating being able to help people in need,” Woods said.
Woods said he had not done much of the cooking, just helping with the packaging, but the food preparation is often the part that Johnson said her residents enjoy.
“Most of the time they’re excited because they want to try their own recipes,” she said.
Not all of the food comes from the Reconciliation House kitchen, though. Total Agape in Warner Robins smoked the turkeys and the hams, and Vida Ellis-Hughes, a 72-year-old retired lunchroom manager, made 150 yeast rolls to pack into the meals.
In addition, local grocery stores donated gift cards to help buy other items.
All of that goes into the service aspect of an outreach intended to prepare women to return to society after a stint behind bars. Johnson hopes that the women’s involvement in the Reconciliation House program will ease their transition and keep them from slipping back into crime.
“They won’t live in prison forever,” Johnson said. “It’s to eliminate recidivism.”
Reconciliation House also runs a summer camp for children whose parents are imprisoned around the state.
“It is our dream to make this grow ... because our dream is to make this a therapeutic community,” Johnson said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.