Fall Newsletter

From Where I Sit...

More often than not, when I arrive at the office in the morning, I notice a handful of people sitting on chairs and planters in front of California First Bank. Their daily coffee and conversation ritual did not disappear in the midst of the pandemic. By adjusting to where they meet, they found a way to continue what was/is important to them despite the pandemic. Each morning I see them brings a smile behind my mask and I am reminded of an Anthony De Mello quote: Nothing has changed but my attitude, therefore, everything has changed.

The pandemic has not slowed Crossroads down, but it has challenged us to be creative in providing services for the women. I’ve often shared that when things get difficult at Crossroads, all I need to do is think of the women and what they are doing, what they have accomplished. Motivation is renewed and I get moving again with new energy.

At the beginning of July, we were finally able to purchase the “after-care” house we had been renting in Pomona for the past 13 years. It will be a new program for Crossroads providing six months of Transitional Housing for women who have completed a six-month residential program. Rather than expanding our current residential program, providing Transitional Housing was the next best step for the women. It will allow up to 8 women another 6 months of housing and meals at no cost to them as they work and continue to save 75% of their earnings. It takes almost six years for a woman to become financially stable. This new component should shorten that time significantly.

These weeks are spent making needed repairs and upgrades in preparation for inspection and approval for addition to our current contract. As restrictions ease, volunteers for various work parties would be most welcome. Please check our website and emails for upcoming dates and requests.

Crossroads, Inc Executive Director | Sr, Terry Dodge

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Reflections on Wonder Woman

Reel Life…


For almost three months now, I have been facilitating a group with the women using movies such as: Cast Away, The Pursuit of Happyness, Zootopia, Crash, Hidden Figures, RBG, On the Basis of Sex, Yentl, and Wonder Woman.

Sometimes it is difficult to make sense of what is happening in our lives, especially if we don’t have any other experience with which to compare it. The use of movies/media helps to bridge this gap through storylines, character development, interpretations of what is being watched and heard and how it relates to our own personal issues. The in-depth conversations connects us with each other and we realize we are not alone in our struggle.

Wonderful discussions have developed around determination, stereotypes, racism, personal development, perseverance, support, role models … just to name a few topics.

With everything, I ask each woman what is your “take-away” … that one kernel you will remember and why? Here are two Crossroads women’s reflections after watching Wonder Woman – which I used as a final culminating movie to gather our inspirations and musings.

SONJA’S REFLECTIONS

Life fails to be perfect but it is always beautiful. My take away from this particular film was the moment I found I wasn’t alone in my Journey. There is a hero in every single one of us. WE may not know exactly where our Journeys began or where our Journeys may lead us, but we must get on the road to even begin this Journey. So my take is the role I play, how that role is different from everyone else, what makes it stand out in a crowd.

I chose this movie because of the many moments I have experienced the crossroads in my life. The moments where I must make a choice and stand alone in it. Heartfelt choices. Powerful choices. How will my choices affect me or others? Those are the hardest choices we make in life. Many times I gave to much of me. Many times I gave too little of me. Without giving anything to myself, it was like a car running out of gas and the car stops. You can’t simply keep going.

There are moments in our lives where there’s scars then moment of laughter, but once we realize we are at a crossroad we must keep going because those are the most powerful moments … so keep going. (Sonja)

DURLENE’S REFLECTIONS

Right Action. Wonder Woman’s aunt inspired me the most. She inspired me to continue being strong, determined and prepared. Daily I remind myself that strong will, determination, and right action will produce “just rewards.” Her daily training and education of self, reminded me that you must be prepared for life’s journeys, battles, and trials.

Even knowing you can’t foresee the future or always be prepared … you can at least do all you can in preparation to survive it. I’m reminded that life is now. There is no dress rehearsal. And I must meet it head on. I believe in myself. Remain steadfast and forward moving. Stagnation is a poison I must not allow to seep in. I must continue learning, growing, and becoming. And always remember … feelings are not right or wrong … they just are. Live in the now … embrace it. (Durlene)

BOARD HIGHLIGHTS

The Board and I are well and sincerely hope that you and your families are healthy and hopeful. The challenges we all face are daunting at times, but they are life affirming too. We are so grateful to be with you in this beloved community.

Despite the pandemic, the Board has been meeting regularly via Zoom, emails, and texts, and we have done some good work. In July, we said good-bye to a valued Board member, Pat Samuelson, and hello to three new Board members, Pia Gupta, Rachel McDonnell, and Leeann Nabors. We are now thirteen members strong.

On September 26th we will hold a board development retreat, led by Cindi Phallen of Create Possibility. It is wonderful to feel the energy already generated by our new relationship with Cindi. Our goal is to lay a strong foundation for organizational restructuring, so that the mission of providing hope and home for the women of Crossroads is assured. The better organized we are, the better funded our programs will be, and the women will prosper.

SAN FRANCISCO HOUSE

In July, Crossroads took ownership of a third home for our women, the San Francisco House, in Pomona. This purchase will generate additional income for Crossroads by providing transitional housing and support programing for eight women.

FUNDRAISERS & DONATIONS

The Board is currently planning several virtual fundraisers, for the late fall and winter, while developing a long-term strategic plan for funding.

Stay safe, dear friends, Dinny Rasmussen, Board Chair

Welcome

The Crossroads Board of Directors is delighted to welcome three new members to the Board. New members serve for three years and may be elected to a second three-year term. At this time the Board has thirteen members. Each of the new members offers her unique life experiences, training, and talents to us and we will be a richer community because of them.

LEEANN NABORS

Leeann Nabors has over 9 years of experience managing day to day operations of a nonprofit, 501c(3) counseling center in Claremont. She also serves as the Administrative Coordinator for the Claremont Colleges for the OCAC (Office of Consortia Academic Collaboration), facilitating the Justice Education and Data Science Initiatives. Leeann has a strong commitment to under-served, under-represented and marginalized populations.

PIA GUPTA

Pia Gupta is Department Chair and Professor of Finance at California State University Long Beach (CSULB). Pia earned her PhD in Finance from Texas and moved to California in 2006. Her research and teaching interests are in the areas of Corporate Finance and Investments. She joined the board of Crossroads as its mission aligns perfectly with that of the Cal State system, which is to serve the under-served communities. She is also passionate about traveling and enjoys hiking, cooking, and reading.

 

RACHEL MCDONNELL

Rachel McDonnell is a graphic artist and web-designer who specializes in helping non-profit organizations reach their goals. She has been involved in local non-profit marketing and leadership for over 20 years. She is interested in social and criminal justice issues and looks forward to opportunities to assist organizations who help people who were formerly incarcerated. A self-described coffee, book, and twitter addict – she endeavors to put aside computers, tablets and phones for more than 20 minutes a day and is generally unsuccessful.

BERNADETTE:
Perseverance, Hard Work & New Beginnings


I was sentenced to “15 to life with the possibility of parole” in June of 2007. On June 7th 2019 I was released from custody after serving 15 years. I was mandated a program and decided to go to Crossroads, Inc. My priority was to get a job and start saving my money right away. However, the program had other plans for me, plans unknown to me that would benefit me when I was ready to leave.
It took a lot of patience but the women and staff there made sure to always uplift me when I had trying times. Job seeking was horrible for me. It even got a little discouraging. Many jobs denied me because I have tattoos and a criminal background.

My opportunity came when I was offered a job with the DoubleTree Hilton of Claremont. I was so happy and excited I was finally having the opportunity to really work. And let me tell you, it was hard work! Going to work early in the morning and coming home mid-afternoon to go to group was exhausting! But well worth it! I had graduated the program and continued to strive at my job when here comes COVID-19. WOW!!! That was very frustrating.

Once again I felt discouraged. My hours were cut drastically and I was on unemployment. I’ve never been known to just sit around and wait. I’m a determined go-getter so I placed applications everywhere. Even places I knew would run my background. But I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to give up! I received a phone call one day from Foothill Transit asking for an interview. I went and told my story telling them that all I wanted was a chance.

That Chance is what they gave me. I now have not only a job but a career as a professional bus operator.

If it wasn’t for the women and staff at Crossroads I probably would’ve given up. Thank you Crossroads for all you have shown and given me.

Our Stay-at-Home Musings

Our Stay-at-Home Musings

“Fears are tangible and may not be eliminated but we do not have to be controlled by them. When we change our thinking, we change the way we see the world around us. We find that as we navigate the obstacles, we uncover opportunity.”

It is trite to say our world has changed and we live in fear.  In March, I was in Ireland at an international meeting with the leaders of my religious community.  Surrounded by the beautiful Irish coastal countryside and with an emerging backdrop of COVID-19, Sisters from Ireland, England, Ghana, Nigeria, and the US discussed the future of our international group.  With the 8-hour time difference, the early mornings allowed me opportunity to follow the news of California from the day before and be in contact with the Crossroads staff before the next day began for them.  Our much anticipated major fundraiser for the year with Martin Sheen and Melissa Fitzgerald reading A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters had to be cancelled.

Since my return … businesses have closed…movement has become more restricted…and we pay attention to numbers like a bookie managing his bets.  Terms like social distancing, essential businesses, shelter-in-place, have become part of our everyday vocabulary.  Empty streets, extended lines outside stores, and face masks are common sites.

The Crossroads office is closed to the public but our work continues as usual and women continue to come asking for a new beginning.  As we try to ease their fears, we also learn from their resilience and determination.  Fears are tangible and may not be eliminated but we do not have to be controlled by them.  When we change our thinking, we change the way we see the world around us.  We find that as we navigate the obstacles, we uncover opportunity. 

Adjusting to coming out of prison into a Covid 19 world

 I have been blessed with my freedom after 19 years of incarceration. I have been in Crossroads since October 2019, (the best decision I made after my release).

In my transition as a free woman, I am thriving with the surmounting support of my mentors, family and wonderful staff. I get to work, which is a huge blessing. I worked for Foothill Transit, which is public transportation. I cleaned the buses and was considered an essential worker.

Then on March 07, 2020 things changed. COVID19 became a true concern to our community. You could feel the fear and confusion encompassing us all. Yet as a family here at Crossroads we have endured the changes to our day to day living. I continued working for about another month for the transit company, being cautious in everything I did. Being mindful of the safety of my Crossroads family and myself.

I am about to complete the program and go live with my birth family. I worry how COVID 19 has affected them too. In my new endeavor I worry how things will affect me, I am stepping into an ever changing world amidst a crisis. I worry about finding employment and my families well being. Yet I know in my heart that this horrible crisis will pass.

Through this madness and confusion, I am amazed at the determination, love and creativity that radiates from family and community to stay connected by today’s technology. We have been using Zoom to continue our weekly meetings at the Reintegration Academy at Pitzer College.  This is amazing to me, how strong their dedication in helping us succeed will go. The love and support that I have received from this community, is heart warming. I feel truly blessed. I thank God for this every day.

—Kiera

“I was overjoyed to have this sort of humanity from people I had just met. It was humbling to learn that the majority of these gifts are donations from the people of the community. I am overwhelmed with emotion from all the community involvement. I never knew people cared so much for their fellow human beings. I can say today that I look at the world in a different way and even in this crisis we can still be supportive to each other. “

While in prison I felt safe because we were away from the world. On Mar 30, 2020 I was released from prison into a pandemic. My first thought was panic. Would I be safe in this new world I was stepping into, or would I need to stay in prison to remain safe?

I was released to Crossroads and to my amazement Crossroads was not only a safe place for me, but the staff and other residents assured me I would be okay. As I watched, the world seemed to be panicking, not being allowed to go about their daily duties such as doing the things that brought them joy in an imperfect world.

For myself I have found my joy right here at the program. My thoughts were that I had not missed out on all the things most people had felt they lost. I did not have those luxuries. It’s the small things here that make it feel like home. We eat dinner together every night, watch movies, and learn from the Reintegration Academy at Pitzer College online. We practice good communication skills with each other that we might have lost along the way. In addition, I was given nice clothes, shoes, hygiene and other necessities that I needed. All of these were put towards this new life of mine.

I was overjoyed to have this sort of humanity from people I had just met. It was humbling to learn that the majority of these gifts are donations from the people of the community. I am overwhelmed with emotion from all the community involvement. I never knew people cared so much for their fellow human beings. I can say today that I look at the world in a different way and even in this crisis we can still be supportive to each other.

—Fonisha

I was recently released from prison after 21 years into a worldwide pandemic. COVID 19.  I found my way into the residential housing of Sister Terry at Crossroads.  Here I was greeted with “Welcome Home”.

The emotions that went through me were laced with anxiety, disbelief, and yes…even hope … along with a healthy dose of fear for COVID and a fear of the unknown.

I had no concept of what I would be walking into at Crossroads. Freedom was going to be like nothing I had ever experienced during this worldwide crisis. The staff and women here are supportive. They are sincere, understanding, and willing to do what is necessary to aid us in our reintegration.  I am grateful that I have this chance to be a productive member in society and reunify with family.

Crossroads helps to further develop the tools needed to make it today and to accomplish the goals I have set for my future. I am thankful to love and live life free.

—Durlene

The First Time I Felt Free

by Lisa, Crossroads Resident


A couple weeks ago in our processing group, one of the questions we were asked was, “When was the first time you felt free?” All of the women have different answers to this question, but my answer was, “The first time I felt free was riding on the bus
going to work. It was seeing families walk together, it was seeing cars go by on the street, it was seeing life existing and that I was a part of it. That is the first time I was finally able to exhale and take it all in.”


While serving 20 years in prison, I was always preparing for freedom. I wanted to go back to my family. I felt guilty for not being there, I felt that I needed to make up for the past. In some ways, I thought being with my family would be the easy choice. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to be in a place where I was emotionally supported and encouraged to be self-sufficient. Coming to Crossroads offered me the counseling I needed, it offered me a place where I was with others who had been through similar experiences, and most importantly, a safe environment that helps me grow and heal.


Now, with less than a month left in the Crossroads program, I feel that freedom I felt on the bus every day. I feel it when I go to the library to do research for the women still in prison, I feel it when I serve the homeless at Urban Mission, I feel it when I am studying for my Driver’s License test. I know who I am, I have a good self-image, and I’m more equipped to deal with the real world. I can ask for help whenever I need it and I know I will be connected to Crossroads for the rest of my life.

Sr. Terry Recognized as a 2019 Congressional Woman of the Year

Sr. Terry Recognized as a 2019 Congressional Woman of the Year

On Saturday, April 13, Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) hosted the Congressional Women of the Year Awards Ceremony to honor local women in the San Gabriel Valley who have contributed to the community through service, organizing, or leadership. The award, now in its 10th year, is given to women nominated by people in their own cities and communities. Rep. Chu released the following statement:

“The annual Women of the Year Awards Ceremony is one of my favorite events of the year. Today’s winners have stood out in our communities because of their drive and commitment to give back to the San Gabriel Valley. Every single honoree today has been selected through an exhaustive process, starting with a nomination from their neighbors, friends, and family – the people in their communities who have benefited most directly from their service. We received a flood of nominations from cities across the district, and today’s winners stood out not only because of their work, but because of the admiration from their neighbors and fellow citizens. I’m so proud of these role models and am honored to be recognizing them.”

Sr. Terry was among those selected as an honoree from Claremont. CA. in recognition of the leadership and commitment to the Crossroads, Inc. program for formerly incarcerated women.

UnCommon Good Interviews Sr. Terry

Home for Good

It took Rebecca 79 years to finally find a loving home, but find it she did at Crossroads, the residential facility for women coming out of prison, and the site of two of Uncommon Good’s urban farm plots. Rebecca grew up in Bakersfield, the child of a single mom who’d left her husband, an abusive drunk. Unfortunately, she didn’t leave soon enough. Her older children had learned their father’s violent ways and regularly beat Rebecca up. The child took extra abuse for trying to shield her younger sister, whom she still calls “Baby” even today when “Baby” is 72 years old. To escape the physical and emotional pain, Rebecca started drinking at nine years of age. In adulthood, the alcohol led her into damaging relationships and hurt her ability to parent her own children. Eventually, she ended up in prison, along with one of her daughters, a drug addict. At age 79, when she was finally up for parole, it seemed that there was no one left in the world who cared. But that wasn’t exactly right. Sister Terry Dodge, the longtime Executive Director of Crossroads, attended her hearing and convinced the parole board to set her free. Rebecca returned with Sister Terry to one of the two homes operated by Crossroads in Claremont. She has settled in happily, cooking meals for the local homeless, helping with clothing and toy drives for children, and attending AA meetings. At last, at 79 years old, Rebecca can say:

“Crossroads has changed me 100%. I’ve learned new tools, how to have a better life. It’s so friendly here. It’s a new world for me, a new life that I never had before.”

Sister Terry radiates a grounded, loving, maternal energy. To be in her presence is to feel both accepted and inspired. We first got to know each other when she generously offered to let us use the Crossroads yards for our urban agriculture program. We’ve been growing vegetables there ever since, aided by a grant that Sister Terry obtained from her religious community, the Sisters of St. Louis.

On a recent blazing October afternoon, of a kind for which Southern California is infamous, we sat on the porch of one of the Crossroads houses and talked about how this work had become her life’s mission. Like Crossroads resident Rebecca, Sister Terry also had a beloved younger sibling, a brother nine years her junior. Before she entered the convent she had a motorcycle, and she would use it to pick him up from school, which instantly made him one of the coolest kids on campus. The two were exceptionally close. Tragically, however, while he was in high school he was introduced to heroin and became an addict. At times during his addiction, his sister was the only person who knew where he was. When she finally knew that he was ready to accept help, she looked into resources for him when he was paroled from prison and was extremely frustrated to come up empty-handed. By that time she had entered the convent and was a teacher. But her experience with her brother inspired her to want to change careers to do something for parolees. She offered her services to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles but was told that she couldn’t be employed in the detention ministry because she was a woman. So she moved to Oakland to volunteer in that archdiocese’s prison ministry. Ultimately the Archdiocese of Orange and Crossroads both offered her jobs and she chose Crossroads.

Under her leadership, Crossroads has grown dramatically, providing housing, education, support, counseling, and employment training in a homelike environment for 32 women each year. Sometimes the women have served decades in prison for a simple reason such as they happened to be in the car when their idiot boyfriend decided to pull over and rob a liquor store. In such cases, they need to be introduced to the trappings of the modern world, such as computers, which may not have been a part of the workplace when they entered prison. Beating all the odds, 86% of Crossroads women are self-sustaining after six years.

Initially, though, Crossroads met with some NIMBY opposition. At one meeting in which hostile neighbors showed up to protest the presence of a Crossroads house, Sister Terry was challenged, “How do you make these felons change their ways?” She responded simply, “I just love them.” That her love is powerful and effective is proven by the Crossroads graduates who have gone on to earn Masters and Doctorates and land impressive jobs. But she is just as proud of her elderly residents, such as Rebecca, who are experiencing themselves reborn and giving back by volunteering, and her graduates who have learned how to live simply, happily and productively on limited incomes. “My definition of success,” Sister Terry told me, “is that every woman who comes to Crossroads knows she is safe and loved.” And when it comes to the bigger picture, Sister Terry likes to quote the mission of her religious order, which is “to work toward a world healed, unified and transformed.”

That her work is doing just that has been proven by the change she has wrought in our city, from being a community that was afraid of her residents, to one that made her the Grand Marshal of our Fourth of July parade this year in honor of her transformative work with the Crossroads women.

At the end of our conversation, I spoke to Sister Terry in the vernacular of her faith, asking, “Do you believe we are ever going to create the kingdom of God on this earth?” To which she replied, “Aren’t we doing it already?

Uncommon Good’s farmer, Jose Garcia, with Sister Terry Dodge, the Executive Director of Crossroads, at our urban farm plot at the Crossroads home. Photo by Nancy Mintie

Sister Terry Dodge really thinks being Grand Marshall is a big deal

Sister Terry Dodge really thinks being Grand Marshall is a big deal

Sister Terry Dodge will not be doing a royal wave at the upcoming Fourth of July parade.

The executive director of Crossroads, a Claremont-based nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women, is so excited to be the grand marshal that she’s planning to wave enthusiastically to the crowd as she makes her way down Indian Hill Boulevard next Wednesday.

When asked how she reacted to the news that she would become grand marshal, Sister Terry said she thought of her parents.

“When we were kids, we grew up in Lakewood about 40 miles from here, and every year there was the Pan-American parade, and going to that as a family was always a big deal,” she said. “So it’s a lot of fun.”

Sister Terry has been leading Crossroads since 1989, and during that time has helped hundreds of formerly incarcerated women get back on their feet and lead productive and lawful lives. Crossroads has two halfway houses in Claremont, a rental property used as a transitional center in Pomona, and an office on First Street, where the COURIER met with Sister Terry to discuss her work.

Sister Terry became involved with Crossroads after working with her brother, who at the time was in and out of jail and was frustrated with the post-release system. It inspired her to leave her previous career in education.

“Everybody looked at history, what people had done rather than what they hoped to do, how they wanted to make change,” she said.

Crossroads has had enormous success in helping women re-enter society. Workers and volunteers at the shelter teach women how to handle money, how to score a job interview and keep that job, how to multi-task in a modern world, and sometimes even how to read and write.

“What we do is we journey with the woman every step of the way,” Sister Terry said. “We don’t do for her what she’s capable of doing for herself, but we don’t assume she knows how to do everything.”

Volunteers who work with the nonprofit include art teachers and cooks who teach important life and social skills.

“To listen to the conversation that goes on, it’s just two women having a normal conversation,” Sister Terry said. “And that’s so very important.”

The work is an effort to reduce the culture shock of being released from prison into a different world. For some women, especially those who have been paroled after being given a life sentence, it could be difficult to near impossible to find their footing.

All of this happens within six months’ time. Despite the seemingly limited time frame, up to 95 percent of women who enter Crossroads have not returned to prison.

Sister Terry has a lot of success stories of women who were helped by the Crossroads program. There’s Lou, who was released from prison when she was 88 after serving 24 years. Crossroads helped her get her social security card and her SSI before she settled down with her sister in Michigan.

There’s Pauline, who had a lot of fears and medical issues and seemed destined to fail, who burst into Sister Terry’s office one day and said, “Sister Terry, I’m not afraid anymore.”

There’s one woman who was picked up by Sister Terry once she was discharged from California Institute for Women in Chino who entered the program not knowing how to cook and left with an expert command of a turkey dinner. For Sister Terry, the beginning of that path to success is simple.

“To me, the most important success is that everyone who comes, knows she is loved, knows that we care about her,” Sister Terry said. “It’s not about her history, it’s about her future.”

Of the roughly 13 people who work at Crossroads, more than half are formerly incarcerated women who have been helped by the program, Sister Terry said.  The nonprofit operates on a shoestring budget, and funding is always an issue, but it’s enough to do the work.

“We’re not here for the money obviously, we’re here for the mission,” she said.

One of those employees is Jackie, a former participant in the program who went on to get her bachelor’s degree in sociology and now works as Crossroads’ program director.

While the majority of Claremonters support Crossroads today, the group has had its ups and downs since opening in 1974. Sister Terry remembers trying to buy a home on 12th Street in 2009 and being met with opposition from the neighbors. It got ugly, she said, and she withdrew plans to buy the house.

“I said, ‘Why would I buy in a place where we’re not welcome, where the women I love would not be welcome?’” she said. “There’s no way I would buy this house.”

When word of the incident spread, Sister Terry said people would come up to her around town to offer support.

“There’s people in Claremont that do not want us around, and that’s okay,” she said. “But the majority of Claremont welcomes the women that I work with. And that’s what’s so wonderful.”

In the end, the overall goal for Crossroads is not only bringing incarcerated women back into the community, but pushing to change the narrative from looking at someone’s past into looking at someone’s potential.

“If we want to change society, we have to look at people differently; we can’t keep talking about us and them,” she said. “There has got to be a we.”

Ultimately, Sister Terry says, part of that change is to create a better system that focuses on bringing recently paroled people back into the community, and that takes strength in numbers.

“I love what I’m doing, but the work I do is not amazing, it’s amazing because not enough people are doing it,” she said.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

2017 Non-Profit of the Year

Claremont Chamber of Commerce Names Crossroads, Inc. the 2017 Non-Profit of the Year

Sr. Terry Dodge, Executive Director of Crossroads, receiving the Claremont Chamber of Commerce Non-Profit of the Year Award from Nikki Coulas, Past Chair of Claremont Chamber of Commerce.
Photograph taken by Jose Vera, Claremont Chamber of Commerce