BROKEN CHAINS MINISTRY ENTERS 15TH YEAR
Akron’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit jail and prison ministry founded by Dennis Shawhan kicks off its 15th year this month. Since its inception, Broken Chains Ministry (BCM) has grown to include a full-service café in downtown Akron, a home ownership program and a revolutionary women’s recovery home.
BCM’s unique Restorative Justice program, developed in collaboration with the judicial system, social service organizations, and community leaders, has improved public safety, saved taxpayer dollars, and created positive economic and social impact.
“About 2,000 people return to the Akron community from incarceration each year,” said Dennis Shawhan, executive director and pastor. “We want to help them become stable, clean, sober, contributing members of the community by providing them with the programs, resources and mentoring needed for success.”
BCM’s award-winning Urbean Café, located in Akron’s Robert K. Pfaff Metro Transit Center, has served as the ministry’s workforce development program since 2011. To date, it has contributed more than $2.75 million to the Summit County economy through retail services and local vendor partners, including partnership with an Akron area coffee roaster.
“I think we have the best coffee in town, but I’m biased,” said John Wiseman, Urbean Café’s director. “We also have the best homemade carrot cake, hands down.”
Since its inception, the café has professionally trained and employed more than 50 returning citizens, and provided a high-quality service to Metro Transit Center visitors year round.
“When I came to Broken Chains Ministry, not only did they help me with a job, they’re like a family to me,” said Laura, a café employee. “A better family than I had ever had.”
Launched in 2015, BCM’s home ownership program provides the opportunity for successful clients to own a home that they’ve helped renovate.
“It is amazing to come home every day to a home that’s mine,” said Joy Rios, the program’s first successful homeowner. Eligible program applicants must pay all fines and restitution in full, fulfill all probation or parole, provide a down payment, and be prequalified for a loan to apply.
“It was a lot of hard work, but we had help from generous volunteers, laborers and donors. It’s a beautiful thing. And, if I can do it, anyone can do it.” Rios said, and she encourages others to work hard, create a budget and make the sacrifices needed to become eligible for the program.
“Lydia’s Home is our faith response to the opioid crisis in Summit County,” Dennis Shawhan explained. “People in our community are dying at an alarming rate, and we want to help change that.”
The program includes education in life formation, support for substance abuse recovery, workforce readiness, identity restoration, restitution and financial literacy.
“Lydia’s Home has been more than I could ever have hoped or dreamed,” said Jennifer, a resident in Phase Three of the program. “Since my release from prison, the restoration that has taken place in my life is incomprehensible. My heart is truly overflowing with gratitude.”
“It’s incredible to stand alongside each of these ladies,” said Tamela Shawhan, director. “To watch them grow and recover, to be reunited with their children, complete treatment, buy a car, learn how to live life sober, and make real friends is truly a blessing.”
BCM is planning a series of special community celebration events this year, including a Lydia’s Home 5K Challenge scheduled for June, and a banquet in September.