Restored Dismas House dedicated: Transition home for ex-prisoners

WORCESTER — Staff members of Dismas House at 30 Richards St. thought they would be successful three years ago just to get new beds and ceiling fans for their residents.

They got a surprise. Because of generous community, state and foundation response, Dismas House was able to raise $230,000 to completely refurbish the 130-year-old house, put in a new kitchen, renovate all the bedrooms and increase its capacity by turning the old carriage house into new living space.

Dismas House, which has operated here since 1988, is a transition home for men and women coming out of Massachusetts prisons. The residents have plans to assist in preparing them to move them back into their communities but they are able to stay as long as needed as long as they stay with their plans, according to co-director Colleen Hilferty.

A resident stays an average of six to nine months. The program has room for 13 residents at a time and serves about 40 people a year, she said.

A formal dedication of the refurbished house was held Friday. The Rev. Gary Richards of nearby Aldersgate United Methodist Church assisted with the dedication. The Rev. John Brooks, S.J., former president of the College of the Holy Cross, who also has been a supporter of Dismas House, participated in the groundbreaking in April.

Although Dismas House in Worcester is a separate nonprofit program, there are other Dismas Houses throughout the country. The concept of helping former prisoners work their way back into the community was the idea of the Rev. Jack Hickey, a Catholic priest, and students at Vanderbilt University. The first house was opened in 1974, Ms. Hilferty said.

The dedication was also time to say goodbye for the other co-director, David McMahon. It was his last day at Dismas House. Mr. McMahon has gone to Philadelphia. Ms. Hilferty, his wife, will be joining him once a new director is found. They are now interviewing for! someone to take over.