Posts tagged ‘faith based organizations’

September 29, 2012

Winfield House: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

At Winfield House this month and October, we are collecting new or gently used outer wear for men. Those items include: coats, vests, sweatshirts, gloves, hats, and boots.

To all of the knitters and crocheter’s out there, we need handmade scarves and hats. If you are inclined, blankets, too. All items are collected and given in love to the men who live under the bridges in Cincinnati.


Because they need you!

Have you ever driven a car and accidently lost control? It can be likened to the downward spiral of homelessness or poverty. Sometimes we are driving through life without a care, all of the sudden something comes at us, or perhaps we were not paying attention, and we need to move the wheel quickly to avoid an accident. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Life is that way, hard to predict. If, when driving, we are startled, we jerk the wheel, and over-correct ourselves, as our adrenaline is heightened; we either miss the object or we are hit from the oncoming car.

If we swerve and still hit the object, we are now off the road and perhaps in an undesirable position. The car is tilted to one side, half on rock and half in the dirt.  Last night’s rain has made the dirt mud, so our tires are quickly sinking. We are somewhat immobilized by the shock of the accident, wondering if we have killed a person or animal we hit. Afraid of the tilt of the car, we try to examine our options. There don’t seem to be very many. We try to call for help, but find we have no phone service.

Seeing that the tilt of the car could be dangerous, rather than abandon the vehicle, we try to restart and maneuver the car into a better position.  In doing so, we have now sunk the tires deeper into the mud. The spinning noise is bringing us to hopelessness, and we realize the vehicle is truly stuck.  To leave the vehicle may not be safe as we are in now unfamiliar territory. Worried about the other vehicle, we pray, try 911 again, and are wracked with fear.

It might occur to us to now look for our own wounds, as we feel a sharp pain in our side, and see the oozing of blood on our forehead. The dizziness of the whole event has now brought us to a paralyzed state. We need assistance!

So, it can be with life circumstances. We sometimes need assistance. Whether we are brought to a low place by another, our own decisions, or a pervasive lifestyle, we have spun out the tires in exhaustion and cannot find hope for our circumstance. There seems to be no one to help us dig out from the accident.

At Winfield House, we are dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Poverty is defined as a state of mind or financial situation where there is lack to sustain life and/or a healthy emotional condition.

Anyone can be affected at any time of their lives by poverty. Either one is born into it, or somehow brought low by circumstance.

For 20 years, Winfield House has helped individuals and families strive to become independent, self-reliant, and successful in both public and personal life.

Here is a three-pronged approach to helping:

Dignity- helping with basic needs, food, clothing, and life-sustaining supplies.
Discipline-helping with life skills to help avoid future problems, and to create a new life.
Direction-spiritual help to bring richness to our souls.

Regarding the poor, I hear this all the time, “Why don’t they just get a job?”
In responding, I have to have as much mercy on the giver as the receiver. Understanding poverty and homelessness is not as easy as it seems. The dynamics are as diverse as the people. In the Bible, we are mandated to take care of the widows, orphans and the poor, so I am especially honored to be part of the restoration team.

Please open your hearts to our friends under the bridge. You, too, may swerve off the road one day and need assistance. You never know.

by Karyn Alexander

Voice of the Nations column for RED!
Executive Director,

Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, bringing hope to God’s people.
Voice of the Nations, Rev.5:19 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, language, and nation.”

July 30, 2012


Something awesome happened to me very recently.

It began with this remark: “Karyn, I could feel your heart beating so fast!”

What a comment!  How many of us are close enough to someone who could have that said?

How many of us can feel another person’s heartbeat?

If given the chance, who would you choose to  “feel” your heartbeat?

I was at dance class.  I agreed to do a spotlight with my teacher. A spotlight is when the entire studio stops dancing, everyone sits down, and only you, the dancer, are on stage.

Gulp!  For a chicken like me, this is a big deal.

My teacher led me to the floor. All eyes were on us. My heart began to beat quickly. My mind was racing. I was thinking about the potential for dance calamity.

Jeff offered his left hand. I took it. We entered our “frame.”  Arms wide, chest meeting chest, my hips joined to his thigh.

Tango! Off we went, around the floor.

“Huh!”  It’s a loud grunt Jeff makes to punctuate the staccato of the move. Heads tilted back, angled body movements, we made it.  No calamity.  Applause from the crowd; we bowed and gracefully moved from the floor.

Jeff hugged me and said, “Karyn, I could feel your heart beating so fast.”

I got home and thought it so remarkable that we were close enough in movement to feel one another’s heartbeat.
I thought about the Bible scripture in Psalm 37: 4 in which God tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your “heart.” It seemed awesome that, if God offers this great gift, He must know what is beating in our hearts.  I thought it beautiful, just like the dance, that our God would hold me close enough to feel and understand my heart beat.

Take a dance lesson with the Lord. Do a spotlight and allow Him to feel your heartbeat.


Karyn Alexander
Executive Director, Winfield House
Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, giving hope to God’s people.
Voice of the Nations:  Rev.5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language and nation.”

August 19, 2011

Amanda’s Tapestry: The Art of Achieving – by Deb Scott

I met Amanda when she was incarcerated in 2007 at Franklin Pre-Release Center, and she entered and completed the Vineyard Columbus mentoring program. In her words, “If I wouldn’t have had the mentoring program, I wouldn’t have had such a strong belief system.”

Amanda says that this strong belief system helped her be the strong-minded person she needed to be to re-enter the community after being incarcerated. She was released after serving five years in February 2011.

Amanda completed over 50 re-entry and rehabilitative programs while incarcerated. For example, she completed her GED and worked for four years with two off-site work programs at Ohio Penal Industries and the Ohio State Fairgrounds. Amanda also completed two years in Tapestry, a segregated therapeutic community for addicts in prison. Even though she used hertime wisely, taking advantage of every opportunity inside, as she stepped outside the walls of prison with fresh hope and in anticipation of a new start, she was not prepared for the overwhelming discouragement and frustration. She submitted 60-80 job applications with only four job interviews. Because of her felony record, Amanda said there are too few resources for jobs and housing. She found out that “…no one wants to hire a felon or rent to one because, they think you’re trouble, it’s very discouraging and frustrating. It’s hard, really hard.”

Recently, Amanda was a resident in transitional housing and she valued this post-release living environment. She believes this enabled her to make a better transition back into the community because, Amanda said, “They offered a schedule, direction and the ability to totally re-locate yourself.”

Transitional housing facilities are a great place to live, but it’s still hard. The residents are expected to get a job, but a job search requires bus fare which is expensive and most women don’t have the money necessary. Amanda was able to secure bus fare with the help of her family and church community. She acquired a job and rode the bus 1-3/4 hour with four transfers each way.  As she noticed, “A lot of women don’t have this option and they return to old places, people and things…what they know… because old ‘friends’ will give them a place to stay and a meal, but they end up back in the same lifestyle that sent them to prison in the first place.”

While in prison, Amanda finished 2-1/2 years of college but on the outside, when she applied to three different colleges, she experienced discrimination because of her felony conviction. She found college admission offices difficult to work with and very rude once they knew her past. Amanda recognized that in order to get a better job she needed more education, but if she didn’t persevere that wouldn’t happen.

Again, she saw how discouraging it was to try and better oneself after being incarcerated and understood why so many women didn’t make it on the outside. The paperwork alone is overwhelming and, she says, “You have to explain yourself 50 milliontimes as to why you did what you did.” It was her faith in and her relationship with God that reminded her of who she is now.  She says, “Good thing I know the Lord ‘cause He had plans for me that nobody else could stop.”




Editor’s Note: Amanda Marks is doing very well in her new living environment. She is making positive contributions to society and re-connecting to family. RED! also acknowledges the superior work that Deb Scott does as a mentor to women incarcerated in prison in Ohio, particularly in Ohio Reformatory for Women and in Franklin Pre-Release Center.


March 15, 2011

Jailhouse Conversion – by Karyn Alexander

From Disco Dude to a Divine Destiny

It started like any normal weekend night for Mike. The year was 1980.

A freshman in college, Mike donned his best disco outfit to prepare for an evening with his drinking buddies. The event of the evening was a date with “drink and drown” at the dance club.

Sporting his best white silk pants, black silk shirt, and large gold chain, Mike looked like a good facsimile of John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Fever.

Mike’s stature at 6’2” tall, with slim and dark hair, revealed a man of the town. Swaggering from his bright orange Pinto, Mike entered the bar with great enthusiasm for a big night of drunkenness.

A good Catholic boy, Mike was raised in the church. He was an altar boy, knew the Ten Commandments, and was water baptized as a baby. In the “God Club,” so he thought, he led a life of duplicity.

Drinking with the priest on weekends, his religion was nothing but a social obligation.

During his high school days, he had begun a life of stealing and lying. Stealing was a hobby he knew was wrong, yet the convictions he lacked could not reprimand or restrain his behavior. Having a moral compass of sorts, he saw the error of his way, but witnessed in his elders a contradiction of values.

Mike’s home life was one of ridicule and verbal abuse. Mike’s father drank heavily; he was abusive and toxic to all of the family members. He was cruel when addressing the kids, Mike being one of four children. His father’s mean spirit and dissatisfaction with his own life spilled to his frightened wife, and even played out in sadistic suggestions to Mike.

On one occasion, Mike’s father asked him to strike a match and hold it to his father’s arm, burning him on purpose. He was only a child and knew he should obey, but his father’s request bread a chronic pattern of people-pleasing out of fear of being rejected and severely scolded. Mike’s makeup was one of chaos from the confusion of his father’s drunken and unloving encounters. The love that should have been a father’s was absent and replaced with unpredictable angry outbursts, and with wild hateful comments that ruled Mike’s mind and life.

During an escapade at the local Sears store, Mike was caught shoplifting. This was his second offense. He had lied about the first, calling his neighbor to bail him out. She had pretended to be his mother.

This time, however, security called directly to his home and contacted his father. The response was devastating as his father said, “I love you conditionally,” meaning, I no longer love you because you are a thief. At that juncture, Mike was thrown out of the house. Still a minor, he was sleeping in his car until he was able to move in with his older sister. Love had been cruel, and his worst nightmare had come true. “I am rejected because I am not worthy to be in my father’s life. He will only love me when I meet his expectations; that is, when I am good.”

Mike’s insecurities intensified at this time. He went so far as to fake a burglary at his apartment to show he was unsafe, and, therefore, able to regain access to his home and father. One would ask, why would anyone want to go back to an abusive person? We all know how much a parent’s love means to us, so any of us might have responded similarly.

Mike was allowed home again, which answered our question as to “why?” “I guess I missed the abuse,” he said.

Mike was looking for the love and acceptance that he thought needed to come from Dear ol’Dad; bad attention was better than no attention.

During Mike’s tumultuous years, his two brothers began attending a non-denominational church. They asked if he would attend. He thought it sounded boring. They were talking about something called “being saved.”

Mike felt something was missing in his heart, but didn’t feel the church was his “thing.”
Ironically, though, out of the blue one day, a thought came into mike’s head: “Oh, My God, I need to go to confession.” Strangely enough, he did. Nothing seemed to happen, except that he had obeyed his conscience.

Back to our eventful disco night. Mike was a suave guy. He was big, bad, and beautiful. He danced the night away, drinking wildly. He said he danced with everyone in the place. His stylish ensemble, along with his personality, was the hit of the show. “Give me the hose” – a call for more alcohol – left our disco dancer more than full of fun.

As the night wound down, Mike left the bar alone, got into his car and promptly ran a red light. Not a second after his infraction, he was pulled over and arrested. He had 12 previous points on his record, so he was arrested for driving on a suspended license. He was placed in the front seat of the cruiser, and told, “You are going to jail.”

Thoughts of self-admonishment ran through Mike’s mind. “I’m a criminal, I suck, I’m obviously not doing things right.”

Mike was handcuffed and taken to jail. All he could think was how surreal it all felt. “Where are my friends now?” he thought.

“You have one phone call,” explained the sheriff. Mike thought it was all so surreal~ perhaps he was on a TV show. Not so. He was booked, photographed, and walked to a cell.

Placed in a cement cell with an L shaped concrete bench, Mike entered the already occupied holding tank. Two men were lying on the benches. Mike decided to sit on the floor. His first thought was, “My white silk pants are going to be filthy!” He sat down anyway. His attitude had been one of apathy, and even flippant until the door of the cell closed. Mike decided to take the only spot left in the tank, and he sat next to the toilet and dozed off.

What awoke Mike was a loud clanking noise. A metal pole was being raked across the cell bars by the uniformed guard. Mike woke, startled, seeing a much different landscape than his original entrance to the cell.

Sitting on the toilet next to his head, “taking a crap,” was a new resident of the cell.

Mike looked around and thought to himself, “Lucky me, I am the only white guy in here.”

Surrounding Mike were men bragging about their offenses. They called out things like, grand theft, robbing a bank, beating up mom. Far from his mind was the filth on his silk trousers; more so, it was the reality that he was not safe. Being surrounded by 13 men who gave off the “I’m not moving for whitie” vibe made for a very uncomfortable evening. All Mike could think was, “They are criminals with guns who could give a shit about me or anyone. I was freaked,” he said.

At that very moment, the light went on. “What have I done that has brought me to this place?” He felt he had no other choice but to say, “All right, God, I give this all to you. I am sorry for my sins. Whatever my brothers have, I want it too [salvation]. I am asking you to come into my life.”

A calm feeling came over Mike, as he slipped off to sleep again.

The sound of metal hitting the cell bars awoke him for a second time. Sugar donuts were being passed around; his name was called, and he was taken off to a court room.

Mike was released that morning. He hitchhiked home in his soiled evening Disco-wear, and found himself wondering where his life would go from here. He attended church that week with his brothers and went to the altar for prayer. Mike expressed his gratefulness to God, and wept as he felt the Holy Spirit come into his life. He asked Jesus to be the Lord over everything in his life. He finally felt the love of God. He knew God would be the father he needed, filling the void his own father had left years before.

Over the next few months, Mike knew there was more to life than what he had been doing before his arrest. He had been working, drinking; going no-where.

 As he was re-baptized, he asked the Lord, “What do you want me to do?”

Strangely enough, a sign came. Sitting on his desk the very next day was a sticky note that said, “Go into all the Earth and preach the good news.” Matthew 28
Mike knew he was being called to spread the Gospel- The love of God.

Fast forward–Thirty years later: I asked Mike how the scripture and calling had impacted his life. Where was he now? How had the jailhouse conversion and subsequent call been fulfilled?

Mike had gone into ministry training, but had not completed it. He still struggled with the old inferiority feelings and unworthiness from his father’s abuse. He married and had three, grown Christian children. He felt his role as a father was fulfilled in raising Christian children and breaking an ungodly curse of abuse.

His commitment is now renewed to serve, as his station in life has changed. He is now able to give himself to others, as his “nest” is empty. I asked Mike if he could share any wisdom about his experience. He responded with the thought that many. like himself, might view their heavenly father with the same eyes they view their earthly father. It is easy to confuse our emotions when we have suffered rejection and pain. We may imprint our natural father’s behavior onto our relationship to God, which causes us to see Him wrongly.

Mike expressed that there is hope for us because God came to him at his worst hour. He was not abandoned or set aside, rejected or unworthy. It was the hour when a human had failed; his own father had abandoned him. In the same hour, his true and loving heavenly father stepped in to save and love him in a more profound and eternal way.

I asked if he was in ministry now, and he said, “I don’t have that story to tell yet. I am still working out what that really means.”

So, for this Disco dancer, a date with Destiny was waiting in a jail cell so many years ago; not in a Church, but patiently waiting upon Mike for a place to open in his heart.

God bless,


Karyn Alexander

Executive Director, Winfield House


Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, giving hope to God’s people.

Voice of the Nations: Rev. 5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language, and nation.”