By Katie Sobiech
True North Ministry is expanding its reach beyond the juvenile facilities of our community. Since we last did an article about the ministry, they have made several changes, including: career readiness programs, a landscaping company, and a partnership with YMCA.
Executive Director Becky Retzer started the ministry in 2002 when she saw a tremendous need in the juvenile penal system. From those humble beginnings, the organization is now sitting on 28 acres of beautiful farm property, utilizing 200 volunteers, and running programs in six different Ohio prison facilities.
“Our mission is to liberate imprisoned youth in the State of Ohio. We see liberation as the complete transformation of the mind, body, soul, and spirit,” said Nate Slaughter, Communications Specialist.
True North programing can be categorized in three ways: Outreach, Vocational Training, and Mentoring.
“Our most popular volunteer opportunities are special outreaches. On a monthly and quarterly basis True North volunteers reach out to large numbers of youth through guest speakers, musicians, activities, prize giveaways, festive food, and fellowship,” Nate said.
Next is their vocational training. “Youth in this type of programing have an opportunity to learn résumé building, job applications and interview skills, carpentry, auto-mechanic skills, animal husbandry and more,” explained Nate.
Third is True North’s mentoring program. “Mentoring is the heartbeat of True North Ministry. The youth that we serve need Christian men and women of integrity and compassion to walk along-side them during this time in their life. Lessons in our group discipleship programs are interactive and relevant to the demographic of youth we serve. Our volunteer mentors and group leaders give the youth personalized guidance in areas of faith, education, and the pursuit of their dreams,” Nate said.
One of the newest programs is Career Readiness.
“Career Readiness has been very successful. A number of youth have already been released from the facility and have been able to secure interviews and gain employment,” said Mark Parker, Case Manager.
“We’ve realized the importance of the youth staying active. Youth who are able to earn income are less likely to enter back into the penal system,” Mark said.
Mark helps manage the employment and mentoring services that are provided to the youth.
One of the most exciting additions to the ministry is the new landscaping company. True North Landscaping offers commercial and residential landscaping services to the greater Akron Area.
“The youth work closely with our manager, who has 25 years of experience in landscaping. This ensures that we are offering a great service, as well as including youth in various aspects of the company. We are able to beat just about any quote because we are not in the business of making money, rather in the business of employing youth,” Nate said.
True North has also teamed up with the East Akron YMCA in writing grants and offering career readiness programs to a larger number of youth.
“We have the plan for liberation in place, now our desire is to implement our programming on a larger scale and serve more youth,” said Nate in closing.
To learn more about how you can become a donor, supporter, and/or volunteer of True North Ministry visit their website: http://www.truenorthministry.org