House of Hope team honored for efforts

HERSEY — When word was heard about the Hersey House of Hope well over a year ago, it was a dream. It is slowly, but surely, becoming a reality.

The double wide home will soon settle above a basement that’s already ready a few 100 yards to the west of it there along US-10, near the old Cat Creek Store. Recently, Carol McKernan was honored in Minneapolis by General Mills, receiving a Vanguard Volunteer Award for her determined and on-going efforts in trying to turn the dream of having a home ready for women in the Reed City area for women making the transition from jail back into society. That would be the Hersey House of Hope. According to a press release from General Mills when she received the award, “For over 10 years, McKernan has played a critical role in helping women in the Reed City, Michigan community transition from jail to re-entering society on a productive level. “Carol is so passionate about this issue,” says Rennie Piontek, a human resources manager at the plant, “that she worked to create the Hersey House of Hope, an organization which helps women navigate life after prison. “Hersey House of Hope serves as a connection point to other agencies in the area, offers classes to help women with the transition, and provides transportation and clothing. The organization will soon provide free room and board in a house that Carol and the Hersey House of Hope Board are in the process of building. “They do all of this with a faith-based approach,” says Piontek. “Carol builds relationships with these women by spending hours in the jail each week helping to develop these women spiritually and helping them prepare for a healthy transition after they are released.” Piontek says Carol is completely selfless in her work with women in transition, giving her time, money and attention to this cause. “She proactively finds ways to draw connections between local organizations and finds creative ways to meet her mission on a shoestring budget,” says Piontek. “She reaches out within her community and teaches others to make good long-term choices that will help them and ultimately will help the community as they return to being fully contributing members of the towns in which they live.” “I learned at an early age,” says Carol, “that we are all on the journey of life together, we all need help at some time or other. Words can’t describe the awesome satisfaction a person receives from helping others. I believe it is what we were created to do, help one another on the journey.” The Vanguard Volunteer Awards recognize General Mills employees who demonstrate a strong commitment to service, generate noticeable impact and inspire others to act. Carol and others involved in the project have, indeed, done that. Several continue to go into the jail here and take hope and inspiration to those women who are incarcerated, along with a Bible study, and friendship, prayers and encouragement. Numerous fundraisers have been held throughout the area in an effort to turn the Hersey House of Hope from a dream into a reality. Just the other day, there sat on the top of the basement wall at the site where the house will be located, a man. There working alone in the cold. A combination of rain and snow spit on him as he tried to talk on the phone. He looked tired. Admitted he was. He said he often works alone. He said he believes in his wife’s dream and this dream of still others. He is sure some day, that “house up there,” a double-wide sitting a bit apart in the distance, “will be that House of Hope right here.” He, too, believes it will happen. But it’s a slow process, getting the work done. Especially that day. Alone. He was struggling to move steel beams into place. One end into the slot on the south wall. This end dangling precariously waiting to be adjusted into the slot on the north wall. A slow process, he admits, this working alone sometimes, but he believes in his wife’s dream, the dream shared with so many others, especially the women in the jail and those fresh out of it, making a new life because somewhere--here--someone cared. And he believes that Hersey House of Hope will be a reality. Hopefully soon. Hopefully, and he does have hope, more help will come and share the load again. It’s tough, he said, feeling alone. “And here I am alone, yet knowing I’m not. I’m doing what I know is right. But, you know, I sure could use some help.” He really could. He was cold. Looked lonely. But he shares his wife’s faith, and wants to help it happen. He sure has hope.