Executive Director's Report
By Sr. Marguerite Bartling, RGS, MSW
As I write this article, Gracenter is starting its third successful year as a Licensed Recovery Residence for Women. In 2011, Gracenter served 32 women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds; and in 2012 I am proud to say we are planning to further expand our services. We plan to update our business center with new computers and software, giving the women an opportunity to learn much needed technical skills ranging from how to fill out job applications and creating resumes to basic data entry skills. Volunteer teachers are always welcome! Contact me for details!
In other areas, Gracenter is creating new volunteer opportunities with the introduction of our "Arts and Cultural Mentoring Project." The goal of this program is to introduce our participants to the enjoyment of other activities outside of the chemical dependency lifestyle in a cost effective and comfortable way. We hope to promote positive educational experiences for the women, as well as creating opportunities to socialize in the greater community. Gracenter is also part of the CATS program receiving free tickets to different arts, cultural and sports events, including the Ballet, the Exploratorium, and Alcatraz, and San Francisco Giants games.
A woman's recovery begins with grace, and helping these women in every aspect of their lives truly embodies Gracenter's holistic approach to long-term recovery. Appropriately I can see from my window a huge rainbow that brightens the late afternoon sky, a promise of God's blessing for this season. May God bless each of you with peace and hope for the future!
Restorative Justice at Gracenter
By: Sandra Munoz, Case Manager and Sr. Marguerite Bartling, RGS, MSW
Gracenter believes the path to successful recovery and community reintegration begins by addressing the major barriers faced by substance abusers and criminal offenders. The lack of housing, spirituality, education and social skills mixed with a criminal record makes it even more difficult to find a job and maintain housing and sobriety.
As a case manager, I understand that recovery is a process and unique to each woman. At Gracenter, the principles of taking responsibility for one's action and working to repair the damage done in the past as a way to move forward in a positive way aligns closely with Restorative Justice.
A relatively new approach to handling crime, Restorative Justice, has evolved in the criminal justice system within the last thirty years. Traditionally the courts looked at a criminal act in a narrow sense of punishment for the offender. While Restorative Justice acknowledges a crime has been committed, it includes an awareness of the damage done to victims, to communities and to the offenders themselves. Justice takes the next step by emphasizing repair for the damage suffered. All the parties affected can be involved in repairing the injury, with powerful results.
Restorative Justice programs consist of offender accountability; reparation to the victim and ways the victim, offender and community can participate together to right the wrongs done. This comprehensive approach takes in not only material and physical damages but includes damages done to relationships and communities. Even if the offender cannot meet the victim in a formal Restorative Justice Process such as Victim Offender Mediation, Family or Community Group Conferencing or Peacemaking or Sentencing Circles, other means are available. Those means include the offender accepting personal responsibility and repairing the harm through apology, restitution (payment to the victim for financial losses), changing one's behavior from criminal acts to positive ones and community service.
Both internationally and nationally, Restorative Justice practices have been integrated into the criminal justice system. In the 1990's Sunny Swartz, the Director of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department brought Restorative Justice to San Francisco in the form of the Resolve to Stop the Violence (RSVP) program. Community Court was set up in 1998 in eleven S.F. neighborhoods that has become a model of how Restorative Justice can reduce crime in cities. The Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco has a Restorative Justice Director, Mr. Julio Escobar, who works with juveniles and adults in the criminal justice system.
Good Shepherd Gracenter is a Community Partner with the San Francisco Sheriff's Department and Five Keys Charter School, a unique program that follows the principles and practices of Restorative Justice. Other women from Gracenter have been helped to further their education through the Second Chances Program for ex-offenders at San Francisco City College, another Restorative Justice program. Project Rebound Associated Students Inc. based at S. F. State University helps students formally incarcerated to go to state universities.
Gracenter's Mission, program activities, emphasis on the 12 Steps, and core values match the approach of Restorative Justice. Women at Gracenter strive to accept responsibility for their actions and the harm done to others. Many are paying monetary restitution and basically changing unhealthy behaviors to positive ones. Some women volunteer in food pantries, Project Open Hands and Friendship House. Healing from addiction involves becoming a productive member of society through education, employment and giving back through service. Restorative Justice can lead to a whole new way of life for the offender, the victim and the community. So too, at Gracenter, women have the opportunity to repair the harm done to others and to themselves. They can move on with their lives and contribute to communities, making them safe and peaceful places.
"We help each woman transform and grow by nurturing an appreciation of her true self and strengthening bonds with her God and community." (Gracenter Mission Statement)
Sisters and the Good Shepherd Guild Celebrate 80 Years in San Francisco
By: Sr. Barbara Beasley, RGS
In 2012 the Sisters of the Good Shepherd mark 80 years of presence in the Bay Area. We will be celebrating with a special Mass held on April 28th, at St. Elizabeth parish, at 10:30 am. Our friends and supporters are cordially invited to join us for this special event.
We are doubly grateful to share this Anniversary Year with the women of the Good Shepherd Women's Guild, who began their 80-year mission of supporting the ministries of the Sisters in 1932. From then to the present, the Guild has been untiring in raising funds on behalf of the women and girls who have been served in the Good Shepherd program. As the needs and services of the Sisters have expanded, so has the breadth of service that the Women's Guild provides. We honor their steadfast commitment and look forward to another 80 years of collaboration.
Our foundress, St. Mary Euphrasia loved the quote, "Gratitude is the memory of the heart." We, the Sisters, echo her sentiment wholeheartedly.
What Motivates a Board Member?
By: Nancy Walter, Board Treasurer
Most of us do not know what it is like to have no place to live and nothing to eat. The women of Gracenter, however, are all too familiar with that situation. These women place their lives and their hopes in our care, and literally in our hands. When I talk to the women about their experiences, I am always met the immediate response of "I love Gracenter". Their gratitude and desire to overcome addiction makes my work as a Gracenter Board Member truly rewarding, and meeting them has become a real privilege. We, on the Board, have a huge responsibility, and with that responsibility comes an equal opportunity for the joy of being truly helpful, and making a difference both in our city and the lives of these young women. Serving on the Board also provides me with an opportunity to experience the camaraderie of the staff and other members of the Gracenter Board, uniting us through our philanthropic efforts and the desire to see Gracenter grow. As a Board Member we are ambassadors representing the organization, attending and hosting events on behalf of Gracenter, and proudly talking to people about Gracenter's mission. I consider the time I give to Gracenter as one of the most important things I do.