$4,000 Grant: Provides incarcerated women with post-secondary class costs.
Rio Salado College is less than 20 miles from Leisure World, but it is unattainable if you are incarcerated. However, the Leisure World Foundation gave women in prison access to it by awarding $4,000 to Matthew 25 Prison Ministry to pursue their education. The funds helped 14 participants obtain certification or enroll in coursework toward a degree.
Matthew 25 Prison Ministry is a volunteer prison ministry providing support and hope primarily to female inmates through pen pals, educational scholarships and re-entry assistance upon release. In 2020, the ministry helped fund 265 scholarships to women in prison.
The ecumenical nonprofit organization was inspired by the biblical verse Matthew 25:35-36:
….for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
“Being released from prison without a support system in place is a very isolating experience,” explains Matthew 25 Prison Ministry President Bill Duff in Mesa, who was formerly incarcerated. “When women are released from prison, the authorities usually drop them off somewhere in the downtown area with little or no money, which can lead to repeating a criminal life.”
Matthew 25 Prison Ministry helps these women transition to a better life outside of prison,” adds Bill. “Re-entry programs, coordinated through other churches, provide transportation, purchasing personal items and assistance in housing.”
Matthew 25 Prison Ministry began in 2012 when retired minister Rev. Karen Spencer at Red Mountain United Methodist Church wanted to help incarcerated women at Perryville Prison in Goodyear, Arizona, see a brighter future. With a unique vision and working collaboratively with others, she determined that one of the most effective ways to help women in prison was through an old-fashioned method of communication: pen pals. A caring and trusting relationship would develop between senders.
It became evident that these women wanted to improve their situation while in prison. The program then expanded to help these women attain their General Education Diploma or GED, high school equivalency. The Prison Ministry added funding to this effort for a few years. Thankfully, the state of Arizona saw the benefits and was willing to pay for the GED courses and instruction.