WORCESTER — After weathering some tough economic times, Dismas House celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday for renovations and additions.
Several local politicians attended the event for the nonprofit organization, which provides housing and services to former inmates upon their release from incarceration.
Dismas House took a big hit earlier this year when state budget cuts slashed a quarter of its budget, said David McMahon, co-director of Dismas House.
Mr. McMahon said the other co-director of Dismas House, Colleen Hilferty, came up with a campaign that would allow charities or individuals to adopt a room in the house.
Local churches and private donors chipped in to fill the gap, and when foundations including the Fletcher Foundation, the Stoddard Charitable Trust, the Charles Bank Homes Foundation and the Agnes Lindsay Trust matched donations, the organization found itself up $100,000, Mr. McMahon said.
“We were sitting around thinking we would raise $5,000 with the Adopt-A-Room campaign,” Mr. McMahon said. “It was a total success. As a result we’ve been able to expand.”
Staffed mostly by college students and volunteers, Dismas House serves 11 former prisoners.
“It’s a very small-scale program, and it’s very intense,” Mr. McMahon said. “We have a whole range of programs, from substance abuse and help with legal issues to reuniting them with their families.”
When the renovations are complete in the next few months, according to Mr. McMahon, the house will be able to service 12 to 15 people.
Part of the renovation will connect the main building on Richards Street with the historic carriage house, built by former city alderman George Coombs in 1871, Mr. McMahon said. When completed, new bedrooms, bathrooms, and family and office space will also be added.
Mr. McMahon said Dismas House is a model for programs that help transition pri! soners from jail to the outside world.
“We’ve been singled out as a model that works,” Mr. McMahon said.
He said that in the 15 years Dismas House has been in the city, more than 500 former inmates have been serviced.
“Tons of residents come back to cook dinner or serve on the board of directors,” he said. “It’s a wide range of people, from computer programmers to business owners. We’re trying to get them reconnected.”
PHOTOG: T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON
CUTLINE: State Rep. John J. Binienda Sr., left, talks with Roger Chandonniat, a former Dismas House resident who is now a member of the board of directors. A groundbreaking was held yesterday to mark the beginning of renovations at Dismas House.
PHOTO T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON State Rep. John J. Binienda Sr., left,