DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) – Wednesday marked a major milestone for many parolees and probationers in Decatur.
That happened with the Geo Reentry Services Transition Ceremony. Dozens of people were being recognized for completing the IDOC or ARI adult re-deployment programs.
One of the participants was Mark Trueblood. His story starts at a different point in his life, when he decided to pawn some stolen tools.
"I needed money, you know, so I thought that'd be the ideal way to do it. I thought it was gonna work out,” Trueblood shared. “But then, one thing or another thing happened you know, and I wasn't able to get the money to get the tools back, and the guy found out about it."
Trueblood ended up pleading guilty to a felony theft charge.
"Everybody does make mistakes you know, admit to it, accept it. And there are a lot of people out there who will help you," Trueblood said.
That help came in the form of the ARI Adult Re-deployment Program.
Manager Lillian Kinnison said the program has transformed hundreds of people.
"Even though they made mistakes in their lives, we're still all God's children,” she explained. “God is with us all the time, and no matter how many mistakes we've made, God is always going to be there for us. We are here for them and seeing how they progress through the program, it's a wonderful feeling when they finally get the message and see that this is something good for them."
Keyria Rodgers, who writes the grants for the program, said the tools participants get include mental health treatment, substance abuse prevention, job readiness, mentoring and more.
"The point of going through this program is not only just to avoid prison, but to also feel a part of the community again,” Rodgers explained. “To basically again fix whatever was wrong and basically just try to be a better, more productive member of society."
On Wednesday, dozens of people, including Trueblood, were recognized for completing the ARI or IDOC re-deployment programs.
"The biggest thing I took from the whole program is it makes you look deep inside yourself to see the kind or person you really are, which I had a few surprises,” Trueblood said. “But you've always got choices."
Organizers said many graduates couldn't make the ceremony because they were working, which is obviously a great sign for those who completed the program. Trueblood was able to attend because he is self-employed.
Since the program's start in 2011, organizers said it's served more than 800 people.