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Step up to “Walking Home” fundraiser for Crossroads, Inc.

by Matt Weinberger | mweinberger@claremont-courier.com

 

When was the last time you walked 16 miles in a single day? What made you want to do it? On May 1, Crossroads held their “Walking Home” fundraiser, which included six women walking 15.8 miles from the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Chino to Crossroad’s Harvard House in Claremont.

The walk symbolized the transition the women make as they leave prison and go to their new home. Led by Sister Terry Dodge, executive director of Crossroads, Inc., the event was filled with fulfillment and joy for the organization and the women it serves.

Since 1974, Crossroads, which is located in Claremont, has assisted women transitioning from prison to independence, and 90% of women who stay at Crossroads leave employed, with significant savings, and a sense of independence and responsibility — that’s a pretty good success rate.

“What we do at Crossroads is assist women who have been incarcerated [to] re-enter the community and get on their feet. To come into a program that sees you for who you are, a woman wanting to make changes within her life and receive that assistance you need to make that change,” Dodge said. She has been at Crossroads since 1989 and her work has led to her receiving multiple state and national accolades, including the Congressional Women of the Year — twice. It’s not easy to leave prison and navigate the world, she explained, but Crossroads has developed a successful process to help women through this transition.

“It’s a step-by-step process. It’s not the actual doing of things but changing of attitudes. It’s looking at yourself differently and the reasons for doing things,” Dodge said. During the six months the women spend at Crossroads, they learn budgeting, financing, recognizing triggers within themselves, and above all, how to build a home. One of those fundamental steps to building a home is sharing dinners, which is mandatory for all the women staying at the house, and take place at 5:45 p.m. sharp.

“That’s where the socialization skills begin to develop. Being able to chit chat and carry on a conversation, that sort of thing,” Dodge said. LaDonna Robinson is a 2014 graduate of crossroads and now works for the organization as a case manager. She remembers the dinners and how important they were. “At the time you don’t realize you need Crossroads, but it’s everything. They taught me the importance of being on time to the dinner table and anything you need, they are there. They really show you how to love yourself,” she said.

Fast-forward to May 1, 2022. With the pandemic canceling all galas and in-person events, Crossroads needed to find a way to fundraise that anyone could even participate from home. So, a board member came up with the idea for a virtual walk, and Dodge came up with the name. “It just came to me that their journey from prison to Crossroads is walking home. So it was out of those musings that I came up with the idea of walking from the closest women’s prison, which is only 15 miles in Chino to the Harvard House in Claremont,” Dodge said.

This is only the second year for the walk, and the COURIER was on hand for the final mile of the 15.8-mile trek. As the walkers gathered in front of Claremont City Hall, the pain and exhaustion the group had experienced up to that point was clearly evident, but equally so was their determination to finish. They knew how much it meant to the women they serve, and completed that final mile without any problems. When the hard work was done, and the group was welcomed home by friends, they all celebrated with tacos and balloons. It was a long journey.

The “Walking Home” fundraiser will continue through May 14, and anyone can participate and donate. Dodge explained that you can “walk, run or roll. You choose what you want to do. One mile, five miles, 15 miles — it’s all up to you.” More information and options for donating can be found at crossroadswomen.org/walking-home. Crossroads hopes to raise $40,000 which will be used to reroof the Harvard House in Claremont.

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