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Support group for former inmates holds fundraiser

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By The Staff

By: Glen Jennings and Amanda Manning

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Prodigal Ministries is breaking out the tinsel and twine a little early for the 10th time. The Oldham County based charity will hold its annual Christmas in September event Sept. 7 at the Seelbach Hotel.

“Christmas in September is an extremely critical part of making sure Prodigal Ministries can continue to exist,” veteran spokeswoman Jo Ross said.

Prodigal Ministries is a faith-based charity that offers healthy environments for people recently released from prison. The organization provides former inmates with housing and helps them find jobs and counseling.

Prodigal Ministries says, according to research, nearly 85 percent of inmates will commit another crime within a month of being released.

Their program, Ross said, helps keep inmates from returning to prison, which in turn lowers costs for taxpayers.

Earnings from Christmas in September, she said, make up about a quarter of Prodigal’s annual operating costs.

The event will feature a reverse auction, where attendees can pledge certain amounts of money that will help pay for certain needs for the former inmates.

The night will also feature Zeke Pike, former college althlete and prison inmate, as a keynote speaker.

Ross said Pike was a promising college football player before repeated drunk driving arrests dashed his chances of successfully pursuing a career at several schools. Pike began considering suicide, but was arrested the night he planned to follow through.

Now, as founder of Number 8 Ministries, Pike travels to schools in Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama to talk about his experiences.

Tickets are $175. To reserve a seat, contact reservations@prodigalky.org or call (502) 222-2389.

Wants to help others

 Inmate Arthur Stuckey Jr. suffered a stroke before being released into Prodigal Ministries’ care. 

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Knowing the stroke had affected his movement, the facility prepared to welcome him by building several accommodations, including remodeling a bathroom and building a new entry ramp.

However, the day he arrived, Stuckey walked up the stairs just to prove he could do it.

As confident as that act may have made him seem, Stuckey admits that his release from prison left him rudderless.

“I didn’t know what to expect because I had been locked up for so long and had been under so much structure,” he said. “When you get here, you’ve got freedom and making the transition is really difficult.”

Stuckey served eight years in prison. He first came to Prodigal in 2013. He said living in the environment the organization has provided allowed him a chance to readjust and reconnect with the outside world after regaining his freedom.

“I’ve been able to maintain work and continue to grow and be in the community,” he said. “Serving and growing and reconnecting with my family and grandkids.”

When Stuckey first arrived at Prodigal Ministries, he initially did not have a job. This left him a lot of free time to devote to self-improvement. 

“I would get up in the morning and spend a lot of time in prayer and meditation and studying,” he said. “That’s what helped me adjust. And then I would sit outside and get fresh air.”

Stuckey said that although his newfound freedom presented some emotional challenges as well. As exciting as it was, Stuckey knew how likely people were to return to prison after leaving. He did not want to become a part of that statistic.

“It felt good in the beginning,” he said.  “Then some days it was really scary because I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to fail myself and I didn’t want to fail my family.”

And as a recovering alcoholic, Stuckey realized he was reentering a world of temptation.

“I know how easy it is to pick back up and go drink a beer and be back in trouble,” he said. “Some days, it was scary because I would be here by myself and I would be thinking about calling some of my old friends up and having them come and pick me up.”

Today, Stuckey hopes to put those experiences to use and become a peer support specialist. 

Stuckey said people struggling with their demons should know there is hope.“Seek help,” he said. “Recovery is possible.”


 It’s all about choices made

 

 Jacob Carter knows it is all about choices you make.

Carter arrived at one of Prodigal Ministries local facilities on last Oct. 3 after being released from jail.

 

 He told the Era that he was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, criminal attempt of manufacturing meth and two counts of assault on a police officer.

“It’s all about a choice. If you want to, you will. If you don’t, you won’t, and I know that,” Carter explained about changing. “I lost two and-a-half years of my life because of it and that’s never coming back, so I’m doing anything I can to make sure that that never happens again.”

Carter, who is the youngest person in the transitional housing facility in Buckner, has been rebuilding his life with the help of Prodigal Ministries. 

Although the 24-year-old would rather be in his hometown of Glasgow with family, he knew that wasn’t the best decision as his dad also does drugs.

“I failed since I was 14, when I started using drugs,” said Carter, who has now been clean for over two years.

After serving time in Barron County, Carter was transferred to Oldham County where he began participating in the bridge program. “It’s five days a week and they build you closer to God and show you ways where you can make better choices and not be the same person,” Carter explained..

That program works in conjunction with Prodigal Ministries.

Carter said that although transitional housing facilities, like the one he is in, may have stereotypes – those aren’t always true. “You can think of a halfway house and people have different perspectives,” Carter said. “These people are my friends, I know I can talk to them and they can help me. It’s just a support group and they keep pulling you closer to the Lord.”

Carter said that will be off parole in less than a month and plans on soon leaving the facility that has helped shape him.

He now works at a masonry company in Louisville, but his main goal is getting back into school, to learn automotive alignment school. 

“Don’t come here if you don’t want to change, because you’re definitely going to change,” Carter said as advice to someone coming to the program. “Even if you want to go back to the old you, you’re still going to get something out of it. These people pour so much love into you."