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Spotlight: Changed Choices

People holding hands in a circle
“Will you do me a favor?”

Changed Choices began with that simple question. In 1999, Pastor Daren McGrew was serving as a senior Chaplain at the Charlotte - Mecklenburg Police Department, when two young women, no more than nineteen years old, arrived in Charlotte, NC after extradition.

“Will you go and speak with them?” Daren asked Ruth Snyder, who was one of the members of the church where he was the senior pastor. He asked if she would take a few hours to sit with the young arrivals at the Detention Center. Initially, Ruth said no (three times, no less) based on her preconceived notions of incarceration. When she finally said yes, she said,

“My eyes were opened because I think many of us have the idea that the people who are in jail or prison are bad. They’ve done something wrong, but

I realized in working with them that many of the women were victimized long before they committed a crime. I also realized for the grace of God there go I,’ and it touched me. I learned to love those women truly.”

Ruth continues to be a pen pal to the woman she had that very first conversation with, and she remains engaged and serves on our Board.

People standing with a Changed Choices banner

Almost twenty-five years later, Changed Choices’ unique approach provides holistic, wrap-around Christian programming, community-based services, and resources for women impacted by incarceration.

We journey with a woman to encourage and support her as she works to restore her life through faith, healthy decisions, and contributions to her community.

Women joining our program often share that they have never had the opportunity to focus on themselves and their needs. After admission to Changed Choices, each client begins working on our curriculum addressing areas such as

identity and purpose, grief, foundations of faith, boundaries, and healthy relationships.

In addition, each client works in partnership with her Change Coach to create a personalized Pre-Release Vision plan containing spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical goals with action steps. Clients have shared that the creation of a personal Vision plan is often the first time they feel listened to.

“I am very excited about my Vision Plan. I have never done anything like this. I really thank you for creating a plan specifically for me.”
A group of Changed Choices participants

Twelve months prior to release a client enters her transition year. Each client works intensely with her Change Coach to prepare for a successful re-entry. This can include vital resources such as access to valid identification, safe and stable housing options including our six-bed re-entry home, connections to medical, dental, and mental health services, recovery resources, a peer mentor, and more.

One of the keys to Changed Choices' success (with a recidivism rate of less than 2%), is the development of long-term, trusting relationships through communication with her Change Coach,mentor-by-mail (pen-pal), and correspondence Bible study partner.

A community of support is built throughout a client’s journey, and during the transition year, she is connected to a local house of worship of her choosing, along with a church mentor to provide transportation and connection.

Once released, a client continues working with her Change Coach throughout her re-entry journey to create and implement her personalized Re-Entry VisionPlan to address immediate needs and intermediate and long-term goals. The process may include setting up a banking account, resume building, interviews, job readiness, connections to counseling, and more.

People going on a hike

For each woman who completes 11 key indicators for successful re-entry such as obtaining stable housing, maintaining stable employment, and reaching self-sufficiency, Changed Choices is in the process of creating a Certificate of Completion. Successful completion gives us an opportunity to celebrate this milestone in her pursuit of a thriving future.

After twenty-five years of walking alongside women, we know community plays a crucial role in a woman who returns to society after serving time. A strong and inclusive community provides the necessary resources, guidance, and encouragement to ensure success. Moreover, community support offers a crucial alternative to isolation and reduces the risk of reoffending. Supporting a woman with the tools and connections she needs to overcome barriers empowers her to achieve positive outcomes.

“I am a completely different person today than I was when I was arrested. I am not only hopeful but through God, this program and the support, love, and prayers of the volunteers, I am joyful.
I feel successful, I love myself, and I am no longer ashamed. I can look at myself in the mirror and feel worthy of God’s love.”
Changed Choices logo

Find More Christian Ministry Content

Each month Serving USA publishes a newsletter featuring our amazing ministry partners. We are so blessed by them as they work to make an impact with veterans, women in recovery and individuals who have been incarcerated.


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