Jan 23, 2012 • By

Creating a house of hope

Carol McKernan’s passion for volunteering takes her to some interesting places.

When she’s not working as a training manager for Yoplait in Michigan, Carol goes behind bars to dedicate herself to helping women prepare, both spiritually and practically, for their life beyond jail.

It all began one Sunday afternoon more than a decade ago.

Carol was invited to a church service for women in the county jail in Reed City, Mich. She became so attached to the people she met, she kept going back.

“I started going in twice a week, and I really made some relationships with some of these girls,” says Carol. “Another gal and I just had a burden on our heart: How can we help them get on their feet?”

Today, they are about to open the Hersey House of Hope, a place where women from across Michigan can go after they are released from jail. The one-year program provides both shelter and counseling to help the women transition back into the real world.

“Some can’t go back to the environment that they were from – that’s part of the reason that they’re in the situation, predicament, that they’re in,” explains Carol. “Once they get out, they have fines. Some of them have felonies, so it’s hard for them to find work.”

Located in Hersey, Mich., the Hersey House of Hope sits on two acres of donated land and has five bedrooms and three bathrooms. Up to 10 women can live there at a time. The project has been in the works for more than five years but really escalated over the last two months.

“Somebody came anonymously and paid for our water well. People are giving us quotes to do work. However, when the work is done, they just do it as a tax write-off. Some contractors are charging us half the amount that was expected. We can hardly keep up with thank-you letters. It’s just been one blessing after another.”

Carol recently received an award, given to General Mills employees who demonstrate a strong commitment to service, generate noticeable impact and inspire others to act. It came with a check to Hersey House of Hope, another blessing, according to Carol.

When asked how she finds the time to do it all, she gave a thoughtful answer.

“I really think we are put on this earth to help each other on the journey. We all have peaks and valleys. There are only so many hours in a day. Where are we spending those hours, and what kind of legacy do we want to leave?”