12 Feb The History of M2/W2

The History of M2/W2

History has often produced people whose vision was to bring hope, healing and new life in the midst of pain and darkness.  People such as John Howard (1700’s), Elizabeth Fry (1800’s), and John Augustus (1800’s) were such visionaries in relationship to prison reform.

Dick Simmons, the US founder of M2 Association was such a person. His deep concern for needy people; especially the fatherless and abandoned, began to take root during his years as a Presbyterian clergyman in downtown New York City.  His inability to motivate his congregation to respond practically to the social problems created by crime in their neighbourhood was a source of disappointment to him.

In the early 1960’s Dick Simmons was moved by the friendless, hopeless state of the prisoners in the State Reformatory in Monroe, Washington. His epiphany lead to this conclusion: “We’ve got to get to the prisoner before he’s released and help him build some positive attitudes. I’m convinced that this can only be done on a man-to-man basis, with a free man going to visit the imprisoned man for one reason only… because he cares. I’d like to call the program M2- Man to Man.”

By 1965, Job Therapy Inc. (M2) was incorporated in the State of Washington. By winter of 1965, an ad hoc Committee of people interested in starting a similar program in BC had been formed. Dick Simmons provided significant initial leadership and inspiration. Informational meetings were held with Correctional Staff at two Lower Mainland prisons, namely Haney Correctional Centre in Maple Ridge and Oakalla Prison Farm in Burnaby.

1966 March 21, Minutes of the Ad Hoc Committee stated that 16 volunteers started relating to prisoners at Haney Correctional Centre.

1970 – Canadian Job Therapy (M2) was incorporated at which time the first official Board of Directors was formed comprising of Dick Simmons, Cal Chambers (first Committee and Board Chair), Bob Birch, Les Pritchard, and Paul Davies.  Les Pritchard also served as volunteer Executive Director. A total of 86 people served on the M2/W2 Board over the first 30 years. One of these original Board members, Tony Vanderwal is still an active volunteer in 2015 at Hidden Treasures thrift store and in prison.      

Ray Coles (1970-72) and Mel Cox (1971-75) were the first staff members to serve the Association. John Vandenbrink became the first paid Executive Director of the Association in 1973 and served in that capacity until 1979. The Association has operated with full and part time staff, as well as volunteer coordinators. A total of 38 people have served as staff members since 1970, of which 20 were full-time or part-time paid staff and 18 were volunteer staff.  Four staff served the Association for over 20 years and one for over 30 years.

1974 – The organisation expanded its vision to include a Women’s program (W2).

1979 – The name of the association changed to M2/W2 Association-Christian Volunteers in Corrections to reflect that it was reaching both men and women in institutions.

1999 August 16 – M2/W2 Hidden Treasures Holding Society was established as a means to provide financial stability to M2/W2 Association’s programs in Institutions (Federal & Provincial) as well as in the communities. The directors were Arnie Melissen, Anita Kasdorf, Beverly Adams, Judy Favelle, and Morris Goodchild. The vision was to pro-actively engage in recycling good quality items at an affordable price to help the community and to raise much needed finances for M2/W2 Association. Later the Hidden Treasures Thrift Store in Abbotsford became a platform where qualifying inmates, job seekers and special needs individuals can gain valuable work experience and training in customer service. Hidden Treasures amalgamated with M2/W2 Association as a permanent part of the infrastructure and future planning. Hidden Treasures Thrift Store in Abbotsford has been successfully under the management of Jose Goedbloed and many amazing volunteers since its inception.

2001 – In June the name was again changed to M2/W2 Association- Restorative Christian Ministries to reflect the evolving vision of M2/W2 and varied work being done that went beyond one-to-one matches in prison.

2002 – In January M2/W2 added a crime prevention program known as Parent-to-Parent (P2) in Chilliwack. This program matched volunteers with mothers of young children at risk of abuse and neglect. This program officially ended in 2009.

In 2006 an Abbotsford component of P2 was also added under the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) contract, and continued until 2010.

M2/W2 has also operated Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) program which is well described on the Correctional Services Canada website. In 2009 we received funding with 15 other sites to operate a five-year National Demonstration Project through the National Crime Prevention Centre.  COSA was enormously successful, something well described in an article by Barbara Kay entitled, “Befriend the sinner, banish the sin” (http://www.barbarakay.ca/articles/view/239).

2011 – The Association had 13 full and part-time staff working in various ministry positions and 9 Volunteer Coordinators active in 13 prisons.

October 2015 – The second Hidden Treasures Thrift Store was opened in Chilliwack with about 7 volunteers giving their time to serve the community and raise finances for the work of M2/W2 Association.

2015 – M2/W2 Association has 9 Volunteer Coordinators working in 13 BC Institutions (Federal, Provincial & Temporary Detention Unit), with +220 volunteers actively matched with 234 inmates. We have 30 volunteers serving at Hidden Treasures Thrift Stores (Chilliwack & Abbotsford). Currently we have 301 unmatched inmates on our waiting list.

The exact number of prisoners and volunteers involved with M2/W2 since 1966 is not known since precise records were not kept during those earlier years.


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