Valpo’s Social Action Leadership Team (SALT) has begun working on their 2021 World Relief Campaign, a semester-long campaign in which SALT fundraises for a charitable organization and spreads awareness of a cause. This year, their campaign is titled “A Haven for Hope: Restorative Housing” and their partner organization is Community Change Center: WeAreOne in Gary, Ind.
Community Change Center is a nonprofit agency located in Gary, Indiana, consisting of two housing properties. It was founded in 2019 by Valpo alumnus Sam Burgett. Burgett had previously worked with and noticed gaps in reform efforts. Therefore, Community Change Center’s mission is to provide housing and rehabilitation for formerly-incarcerated individuals.
“We work with individuals in Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties while they're incarcerated and then help them transition back into the community, setting those goals and then providing case management and mentoring,” Burgett said. “So they can do things like get back in school or get employed, or get whatever benefits they're eligible for, and all of that.”
The two houses in Gary will be “reentry housing,” where men can live for a short term while the organization helps them gain employment, education and eventually be able to afford their own housing.
According to both Burgett and Criminology and Sociology Professor Dawn Jeglum Bartusch, who is also a member of Community Change Center’s board of directors, the US faces issues of a lack of rehabilitative programming.
Professor Jeglum Bartusch explains that the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world despite having only five percent of the world’s population.
“So, I think, in really significant ways, we focus more on punishing in the system than on rehabilitating and really preparing them for reentry back into our society,” Jeglum Bartusch said. “For example, the research shows that when we provide people with educational opportunities when they’re incarcerated, it's one of the best ways to decrease recidivism rates. But some of the incarcerated men I know said in educational programs, you can’t participate until you're within a certain number of years of being released from prison because they simply don't have enough spots in their programs.”
The SALT World Relief Campaign will raise $25000 for Community Change Center, which will help to renovate the two buildings and to cover the labor needed to run the agency. SALT will be working on projects and events throughout the semester to raise the cost.
“We do a lot of things to raise the money,” World Relief campaign chair Rachel Winkler said. “We have a letter-writing campaign where SALTers will write to people they know, we talk to our alumni and other Valpo alumni to make those connections and ask for donations….And then we also do several events. Our biggest one is probably the Color 4 A Cause 5K that we do, which is a color run at the end of the year and then this year is going to be on May 1, and we are also going to have a virtual and in-person opportunity.”
In addition to the annual Color 4 A Cause (C4AC) 5K, past events have included $4000 Week, in which SALT intended to raise $4000 each day by hosting a different game on campus and coffeehouse, an event held in the Campus Café at night in which different students performed music.
Winkler gave some suggestions as to how VU students can help support the campaign and the cause in general.
“They can come to our events, they can donate, they can spread awareness about the issues. They can also come to SALT meetings, which are at 9:00 pm Monday if they want to get involved with working on this issue.”
To follow SALT’s campaign efforts, follow on Instagram or Facebook at @valposalt. To make a donation, please use the Facebook Donation button, visit our website worldreliefcampaign.org or make a check out to the World Relief Campaign and sent to 1600 Chapel Drive, Valparaiso, IN 46383.
Questions may be directed to Rachel Winkler, World Relief Campaign Chair at email@example.com or 314.792.580