Tag Archives: Raleigh

A Golden Opportunity

Margaretta Peale, Cake with Raisins, 1829
Margaretta Peale, Cake with Raisins, 1829

Did you know that in the southern United States—when a snowstorm is approaching, the three most important items to stock up on are wine, eggs, and bread?

I was absolutely certain this was true— until last week. If the snow is even whispered, we immediately dash to the grocery store to stock up on “survival rations” to get us through what we consider to be a most unnatural disaster.

What do you stock up on in a storm?

Pondering this gave me another idea. Would it be more interesting to consider the question another way— What are you stocking up on in your life?

I didn’t know it at the time, but this storm turned out to be my golden opportunity to gain a personal insight.  Something happened that day that caused me to examine how intentions and actions play out in our lives. Do our actions either honor or dishonor our core values?

NCSU's WWII Memorial Bell Tower in the snow (2015)
NCSU’s WWII Memorial Bell Tower in the snow (2015)


Raleigh goes into a frenetic feeding frenzy right before a snow storm. When I finished work for the day and had arrived at the grocery store, multi-tasking all the way, a shopper caught my eye. There she is, this elderly lady making her way with determination down the aisle and holding on tight to her cart for stability. Clearly, she’s in some distress. Folks are zipping around her as fast as they can.

We chatted and I learned that Maria lived what I’ll call a “giving” life. She’s a retired college professor.  In that one moment, I made a life-changing friend with a single act of thoughtfulness. I had no idea “who” she was at the time— but I do now.

Why do I share this story? Most of us truly seek to discern what is written on our hearts. We hope to find a significant purpose in our lives. In one form or another, this is the universal search for the meaning of life.

I’d been experiencing an internal struggle.  Here’s what I’m trying to figure out.

  • What has God written on my heart?
  • How can I read it clearly— and do it?

A couple of weeks ago over lunch, a friend offered her feedback on how she sees my dilemma. She suggested that she has observed that my three most apparent operating principles are:

  • Standing firm in my values and withstand with grace.
  • Engaging with a clear purpose and good intent.
  • Speaking truth to power.

For the past year, I’ve been stepping-down my hours with the Alumni Program and preparing to transition off StepUp’s staff.  Following the death of my husband, becoming part of the StepUp family was a terrific experience. Though this work helping people in need of a second chance, StepUp re-connected me to a community of caring and thoughtful change-makers.

Kauffman Foundation Facilitator Training (2014)
Kauffman Foundation Facilitator Training (2014)


Last year I completed The Kauffman Foundations’s entrepreneurship training. Combining business coaching with this new knowledge, my plans are to focus on connecting with others to build something meaningful, such as a StartUp Community, a non-profit, or a triple-bottom-line venture. I’ll also travel to Penland School of Crafts to further develop my skills as a jeweler and metalsmith.

As I prepare to meet the future, I’m aware that I’ve felt excitement and panic in equal measure. The storm slowed me down and meeting Maria replenished my spirit.

Let me weld these disparate thoughts back together with this question.  When you to think back on the big storms in your own life—  What are you stocking up on?

How we choose to spend our time defines who we are. Those choices speak volumes about what we truly value.

To me, it’s people. It’s my favorite verse, “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” I’m embracing this journey, knowing I have everything I truly need. Faith that the Lord has written it on my heart.


startup nc reentry

The era of excessive mass-incarceration in America is coming to a close.

Let’s keep blame and politics out of this. It’s time to simply get down to the business of planning effective community reentry and coordinating what is needed for success. How can you help?

Thought leaders from across the state, including NC Attorney General Roy Cooper, are gathering for the North Carolina Reentry Symposium on Saturday, June 6 in Burlington, NC. The purpose is providing an open forum for the exchange of information on NC’s reentry process. All stakeholders are invited to attend to obtain a greater understanding of the issues surrounding reentry. We’ll hear more about what is currently planned and who will be involved in facilitating successful reentry We are resolved to engage in a renewed dialogue to build a stronger, more successful, more connected statewide reentry network.

Why does it matter?

Having volunteered at Butner for AlphaUSA and after spending six years working with StepUp Ministry, it’s apparent that the number one problem facing those with a criminal conviction is employability. As a volunteer at Butner (FCI-II), the people we minister to have real fears about being even being allowed to make it in society. Those who have completed their sentences continue to repeatedly be branded “offender” on the outside and online. The consequences of a criminal charge or a conviction are severe and long-lasting. How does a person coming out of prison obtain life-sustaining employment paying a livable wage?  Barriers are everywhere. Fair access to employment, housing, and transportation are essential to building permanent stability.

Here’s my view as one collaterally involved in the justice system. I believe in second chances. As a society, we have punished them— and now we are duty-bound to develop and implement a thoughtful policy approach and process that actually helps people reenter society successfully.

“At what point do you quit offending?”

Boots on the ground reentry nc june 6

Boots On The Ground!

Putting together an event like this requires a great deal of help and coordination.  Do you have something to contribute to this effort?

For more information, sponsorships or to volunteer, please contact:

LouRonna Richardson 

(314) 607-8850


NC Reentry Symposium

Saturday, June 6 8:30AM – 5:00 PM

Trinity Worship Center
  *   3157 S. Church St.   *   Burlington, NC

Pre-Register at: www.alphausa.org/prisons

Thank you for your interest and concern regarding the issues surrounding successful reentry in North Carolina.

Mary Jane Clark, 
StepUp & AlphaUSA Prison Ministry NC Team