Giving women leaving incarceration a fresh start
Victoria McCormick is a person who follows her heart, especially when the mission is to help someone who is facing a big obstacle. And there are few bigger obstacles than joining a community after incarceration.
McCormick became the director of Mercy Mall’s reach-out ministry Cases of Hope in 2016. The mission of the program is to provide suitcases, each one filled with toiletries, clothing, a Bible and personal hygiene articles for women the day they leave the jail.
“We deliver a suitcase the day they get released,” said McCormick. “Some women have nothing to wear but their uniform so when they get the suitcase they are allowed to go and change before they leave.”
The ministry is operated entirely by volunteers. Suitcases are donated and so are most of the items. Their annual budget is less than $2,000 because of the generosity of the community and their donations to Mercy Mall, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides clothing, housewares and baby items to families in crisis. However, they do have to purchase some of the items, so funding is necessary to support the program.
Volunteers for Cases of Hope never get to meet with the women they help, so personal testimonials are hard to come by. “But knowing we do what God has asked us to do, love unconditionally, is enough,” said McCormick.
One story has been shared with them. The offender opened up her suitcase and changed out of her prison uniform into the clothes that were given to her. When she walked out of the room, the officers could not believe the transformation. It made her feel so special. McCormick believes that she felt the love that was transmitted from the volunteers to the young lady. Sometimes that is all a person needs to give them hope and get them started on a new path. Knowing and seeing that someone cares is a powerful motivator.
The average age of the women they serve is 18. To date Cases of Hope has served 128 women from Central Virginia Correctional 13, and 32 from the Chester Sheriff’s Department to date.
“Every release form I get, I pray over the offender that God would use this suitcase to open up eyes to see Him,” said McCormick. “This is a mission where we can only plant the seed and pray it grows into something to glorify our Savior. We never get to meet the offender. This ministry has to come from the heart. We believe that we are making a difference by packing them a suitcase to start over.”
In 2020 Cases of Hope will add another prison to their ministry, Virginia Correctional Center for Women, and that will double the number of offenders they serve. We need more volunteers, suitcases, and funding are necessary to support this ministry, said McCormick.
“My heart loves the Lord and I feel like this ministry helps them (offenders) have a new start.” she said. “I like to think when they open their suitcase, they can feel someone packed [them] with love and care and not just something thrown together. All suitcases go out with much respect.”
McCormick has a personal goal for 2020. She would like to see each of the women leave prison with a portable CD player. “A very high percentage of the offenders go home by bus,” she said. “and being able to send [each] a CD player in [a]suitcase to play for the ride home with Christian music has been a goal of mine for two years.”
With the help of others, the project will be able to meet this goal, she added. “This is my Christmas wish for 2020.”
Office hours are Wednesday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m and Saturday 10 a.m. to noon.