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  • Jack H. Bender

70x7 Life Recovery

You’re homeless. You’re jobless. You’re getting out of jail or prison. Who can help?

I reached out to Marybeth Apple Sims, Donor Relations Manager, of 70x7 Life Recovery to learn more about their organization. Marybeth and I were JustFaith classmates ten years ago. I knew I could count on her for facts without hype and stories from the heart.

70x7 Life Recovery is a highly effective organization helping those who want to become productive citizens, following their release from incarceration. 70x7 operates employability programs in Grand Rapids and Holland.

Clients of 70x7 are called “participants.” To use 70x7’s services, a participant must have been adjudicated (sentenced) so their status and responsibilities in the legal system are known. One of the first actions 70x7 does is to do an ICHAT search (Internet Criminal History Access Tool), maintained by the State of Michigan, to better understand a participant’s past.

During the intake process, participants are asked about their gifts and skills and asked what they would like to do. A forty-hour week is divided into two parts: 1) Class time with the Changes curriculum, a program written in-house that addresses how to sustain long-term employment and affirms that one does not have to be identified by their past mistakes, and 2) Serving Together, a hands-on “community service” piece which helps determine the tangible traits of participants (promptness, attitude, follow-through, etc.). On the last day of class, one of 70x7’s employer partners conducts practice interviews and then a determination is made as to whether or not a participant is ready to advance to the employment pool.

Once in the employment pool, the 70x7 in-house staffing company, New Day Staffing (NDS), begins setting up and taking participants to interviews. NDS has over forty participating employers between 70x7’s two locations, including ABCOR, KAM Plastics, Premier Finishing, Trendway Corporation and Ventura Manufacturing, that believe in second chances and intend to hire in participants after 90 days of trial employment. For many, this is the first time they have received benefits!

Marybeth shares that the “secret sauce” of 70x7 Life Recovery is mentoring, both 1:1 and in groups. Group mentoring happens during the Serving Together segment as volunteers work side by side with the participants as they learn and practice soft skills and social abilities at one of three churches: Moran Park Church, Central Park Church and Christ Memorial Church. The 1:1 mentoring is very deliberate. The hope is that the mentor will be a role model who eventually becomes a friend.

Community partnerships are vital for participant success. Common collaborations include, but are certainly not limited to, the Holland Rescue Mission, Probation and Parole, Foster Care, Friend of the Court and the recovery community. Participants can attend C.L.E.A.R. meetings every Tuesday from 11AM to 1PM where they can connect with other participants and representatives of 70x7's collaborating partners.

The greatest challenge for a participant is finding affordable housing. The task is even more daunting if the participant is on the sex offender registry.

There are a number of short phrases that capture what 70x7 Life Recovery has learned over time: One story, one relationship, one day at a time. Do the next right thing for the next right reason. NOLA (no one lives alone). Meeting makers make it.

When we consider donating our time, treasure or talent to an organization, we should carefully evaluate the RESULTS it is getting over just the number of people served. Marybeth shared that the national recidivism rate is 43% (which increases to 77% if a five-year period is considered), the State of Michigan’s recidivism rate is 28.1%, while 70x7’s is 3.9%.

Not all participants “make it” the first time. Those desiring to join again are welcomed without recrimination. After all, 70x7 is more than a name. Forgiveness and second chances drive the organization. Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22, NASB).

Marybeth has seen numerous transformations and knows that, given adequate support, people can rise from the ashes.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

    to proclaim freedom for the captives

    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

    and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

    instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

    instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

    instead of a spirit of despair….(Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV)


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