Community Partner Highlight: EMERGE Connecticut ™

For the first time in his adult life, Juan was given a key.

He had just begun a job with a local nonprofit and he couldn’t believe that his new boss trusted him in this way. He couldn’t believe that anyone would. The weight of what the key represented was so much larger than this single moment. It was the manifestation of a truth that was hard to come by and still not something he fully believed about himself.

His life was not over. He was cared about. He was supported by a community that saw all of him and believed in him. He had skills that were valuable and could provide him with a life that had opportunities in it. All of it, truths that would not have been possible if it weren’t for EMERGE Connecticut ™  in his life.

“When Juan told me about the key – he cried. For a long time. He just couldn’t believe that someone trusted him with a key. He didn’t even have that perspective for himself, that he could be genuinely trusted and given significant responsibility. It was an important turning point in his life and he took that job and, as it turns out, himself very seriously,” said EMERGE Executive Director Alden Woodcock.

Juan was one of the first people that Woodcock worked with at EMERGE. Juan’s  story is both unique and reflective of the hundreds and hundreds of formerly incarcerated people that EMERGE has assisted successfully integrate back into their communities.

EMERGE operates a dual model that pairs paid work with trauma-informed support. They provide skills training and educational opportunities, as well as individualized support for emotional and mental health. At the center of their work is the healing that is a direct result of their cultivation of a supportive, positive community.

The results speak for themselves. Cumulatively since 2013, just 11% of EMERGE crewmembers returned to prison on a new conviction within two years of their enrollment, a major reduction from the over one-third of people nationally who are reincarcerated on a new conviction within two years of their release (BOJ 2021).

“The impact that EMERGE has on people’s lives is significant and plays a vital role in building towards more equitable solutions in Connecticut. It was a privilege to be part of the Social Impact Partners team that worked alongside EMERGE. In fact, I found the mission, the approach, and the results so compelling, that I eventually joined the board of directors!” said Social Impact Partners Director Michael Van Leesten.

Social Impact Partners began its engagement with EMERGE in January of 2020 when Alden Woodcock was named the organization’s Executive Director. “Social Impact Partners helped me create a first 100-days plan…and then the pandemic came and disrupted everything. We were thrown into challenges that no one had experienced before and Social Impact Partners continued to walk with us,” Woodcock shared. “Thanks to our work together over the years we more than doubled our annual budget and can serve so many more people. We also made tweaks and changes to our internal systems so that we could sustain the work.”

And sustain the work it has. As a community partner, we are proud of the vital work that EMERGE continues to do as we collectively build a thriving CT with racial equity and economic security for all people. Social Impact Partners is grateful that we were given the opportunity to play a role in this work with such an incredible partner.

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