A New Face

Sept 15-22
VOL 124 NO. 31
A New Face
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Jail Ministry welcomes new coordinator

For 25 years, Melody Holmes has been out in the community, offering a helping hand to people in need.

A missionary at her church, the Hopps Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, she is used to asserting herself on behalf of others.

“I’m very used to that. That’s a part of what I do,” she said. “I’m a missionary in my own church so I’m very used to doing work and stepping in with people who need help.”

Last week, the Syracuse native stepped into a new role as the coordinator for Syracuse Jail Ministry.

Holmes is the chairperson for the Syracuse Region Martin Luther King Jr. Committee. She is also the executive chair of Syracuse Healthy Start. According to Holmes, she participates in numerous committees throughout the community including the Syracuse University Martin Luther King Celebration Committee. She is also the founder and facilitator for Miss Helen’s House, the Wendy Project which helps women who have tested HIV positive.

“I’ve been involved for a long time,” she said.

Before joining the Jail Ministry staff, she worked in the Onondaga County Clerk’s office. Previously, she worked for the Syracuse Education Opportunities Center, an affiliate of SUNY Morrisville.

“That was direct contact with helping people and helping individuals,” she said.

Before that, she was employed by the Center of Community Alternatives and Holmes believes her experience with the CCA is the most similar to her role in Jail Ministry. During her time with the organization, Holmes’ responsibilities included one-on-one counseling and testing with inmates in state facilities.

In each of her vocations, Holmes has found ways to help people. Jail Ministry is really just a new way to assist the unfortunate.

“It’s just getting back to what I do and what I feel comfortable with,” she said.

With just a week under her belt, Holmes was still cleaning out her new office at the Jail Ministry base of operations in Slocum House Thursday afternoon, but was meeting with staff members and participants in the Visitor-Advocate Program.

Jail Ministry operates as an advocate for the incarcerated through a variety of avenues. In addition to the Visitor-Advocacy Program, it performs social-justice work, helps facilitate Recovery Advocacy, offers a Poverty Bail Program and holds prayer meetings and Bible study. Jail Ministry also operates a small bakery, Glory Bee. The bread is sold at area churches and the proceeds benefit Jail Ministry.

“It’s a grassroots, socially conscious incarcerated advocate program,” Holmes said.

One of the challenges Holmes said she has faced through her career in service is learning that no matter how badly one wants to pour all of his or her effort into the task at hand, one must learn to keep it within measure.

“You never feel that you can do enough,” she said. “My mission is to not have any subjective thinking; it’s to be objective. My sole purpose is to be an advocate and when I go into a facility to do as much as I can in an advocate role. The challenge is to compartmentalize. You can do this from 9 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.]. After that you have to have your own life.” Flurry of activity

Holmes’ introduction to Jail Ministry is just one of a myriad of activities surrounding the organization this fall.

Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m., Jail Ministry will host an Information Night at the Brady Faith Center (404 South Ave., Syracuse). The event will enable people to meet some of the staff and volunteers involved in Jail Ministry and will include a presentation detailing the organization’s history.

Jail Ministry will hold training sessions for Visitor Advocacy on each Tuesday in October starting Oct. 4. Each session will be held at Slocum House, 208 Slocum Ave. and will begin at 7 p.m. and end at 9 p.m.

According to a release from Jail Ministry, the training will include an overview of the criminal-justice system, an introduction to key legal terminology and discussion of visitor advocacy as a relationship.

Jail Ministry includes more than 50 volunteers who meet with prisoners and has assisted more than 500 individuals with bail. This year the organization received some 20,000 telephone calls requesting help.

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