Starting Over for Success (S.O.S) is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization established in 2008 to provide services to the ex-offender population in Barry and adjoining counties in the State of Michigan. The mission of this non-profit organization is to reduce the disenfranchisement of ex-offenders and assist them in rebuilding their lives through relevant job training, gainful employment and access to community resources
S.O.S. refers individuals to appropriate social agencies and organizations that can facilitate their successful re-entry into our communities. We recognize that released prisoners face a myriad of challenges that contribute to their return to criminal activity, re-arrest and re-incarceration. Some of these challenges include joblessness, substance abuse, mental health problems, low levels of educational attainment, lack of stable housing and poor family connections. By leveraging resources and developing community collaboration we can improve community safety and the quality of life for our residents supporting one ex-offender at a time.
S.O.S. partners with employers, the criminal justice and correction systems, Michigan Works!, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Hope House, Faith based organizations, and other community service providers that support the ex-offenders' re-entry back into the community.
S.O.S. raises funds through grants, private donations and the sale of services and goods.
Employing this population saves you money. It costs the taxpayers in the State of Michigan between $35,000 and $45,000 to house one inmate for one year. Statistics prove that parolees who do not have a job and a support system in place within 30 days of their release have a two to one likelihood of re-offending.
Of the 14,000 inmates released from prison each year in the state of Michigan over 30% will return to prison within 3 years.
Your donations help us provide assistance to the ex-offender population seeking employment.
Your donation is tax-deductible and we welcome contributions of any size. Click the Donate button below to be directed to a secure Paypal account and begin making a difference in someone's life and in the community.
In her years of working with the public in employment and workforce development, the founder of S.O.S. saw an emerging pattern. The majority of employers had a “no felony” hiring policy. As she worked with these ex-offenders to assist them in getting a job she realized that not being able to gain employment was a major cause for recidivism. If they couldn’t get a job, they couldn’t pay their fines, pay for rent, child support, transportation or even a driver’s license. Without a means of support, many were re-incarcerated and the whole process would begin again. She thought it unfair that after an individual served their time and paid their debt to society, that most spent the rest of their lives still paying for their crimes by lack of opportunities especially in the employment arena.
Finally, at a meeting for the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative program, she met an individual who had been involved in a drug related crime as a woman in her early 20’s and had spent 18 years behind bars. She had used that time to get a college degree (something that is no longer offered to inmates) but found out when she was released that there were more barriers than ever. Not only did she have to retrain herself to live in the world outside the prison gates, but she faced difficulties in getting legal identification papers and discrimination in applying for employment, buying a house and getting a loan for a car.
This scenario that S.O.S. founder Joyce Snow saw replayed with many individuals over the years and her own connection to the courts through her son’s turn-around through mentoring and the opportunity of employment led her to write a paper for her Master’s Degree that became the blueprint for the birth of Starting Over for Success.
Ronald Heilman - Chairperson
W. Joseph Mills - Secretary
Karen Ferrier - Treasurer
Joyce Snow - Director & Founder
Tina Eaton - Director
Patrick Purgiel, Director
Ralph Polumbo, Associate
Dennis Bona, EdD
Jeffrey Westra, Associate
Judge Amy McDowell - Associate
Ron joined the SOS Board in 2011 as a Director. He received his Bachelor in Human Relations Degree from Aquinas College Summa-Cum- Laude, and has studied criminal justice and courses in psychology and cognitive behavior at Grand Rapids Community College and various other institutions. His diverse employment background includes the office furniture and marine industries. He also served as constable and building inspector for Allegan County. In addition, Ron holds real estate and building licenses. Ron is a lifetime member of the VFW and AMVETS and served in the US Army. He has served as an appointed member of the Barry County Corrections Board and currently serves on the Michigan Supreme Court Foster Care Review Board for seven Michigan counties.
Joseph has been engaged in the general civil practice of law in Michigan State Courts and various Federal Courts since 1975. Joseph’s specialty areas include: estate and trust settlement and planning, real estate, tax, business entity formation and planning, domestic relations and debtor / creditor matters. He has also appeared numerous times in State and Federal trial and appellate courts.
Joseph reviewed the documents, offered advice and contributed to the formation of Starting Over for Success through his legal practice. He is currently the Principal Attorney for W. Joseph Mills PLCC formerly Mills & Shaw PLLC in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Prior to 1994 Joseph was a principal attorney for Seyburn, Hencken, Mills & Shaw PC of Kalamazoo and also engaged in a solo practice.
Mr. Mills received his BA degree from Grinnell College in Grinnell Iowa and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Detroit, School of Law. He has been a member of the Michigan State Bar and the Kalamazoo County Bar Associations since 1975, and served as a member of the Michigan State Bar Grievance Committee.
In addition to serving as Secretary for Starting Over for Success, Mr. Mills has served as a Board Member of Friends of the Kalamazoo Library, Past President and Board member of the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony, Past President and Board Member of Residential Opportunities, Inc., Former Board Member of Colleges International – Kalamazoo Chapter, Trustee of Friends School in Detroit, Member of Alpha Sigma NU Honor Society and has been involved with Youth Soccer as a Coach and Referee.
Karen has spent 25 years in the staffing industry working for Spherion and Adecco Staffing. She held many positions during her tenure including branch manager, area manager, and national account representative. She attempted retirement in 2011 but ended up working part-time to keep busy. Karen began working with Starting Over for Success in 2015. She was asked by the S.O.S. Board of Directors to create the staffing model that would provide employment opportunities to the ex-offender population. She continues to manage the program today.
Pat spent 35 years as a High School Business Education Instructor, Coach, and department head. Pat has also taught business, law, and career preparation classes as well as being placement director for the work experience students. Most recently Pat has taught a variety of Business related courses as adjunct instructor for Kellogg Community College and Miller College.
Pat received his Associate Degree in Management from Davenport University, his Bachelor's Degree in Business Education and Economics from Central Michigan University and his Master's in Education from Western Michigan University.
Now retired, Pat is past president of Barry County's Public School Retired Employees which is a chapter of the state MARSP., and is currently the local Legislative Ambassador for Barry County Association of Retired School Personnel. He is also active with various church and community committees. Pat's passion, along with enjoying his children and grandchildren, is running and biking and he is affiliated with a local multi-sports club called the "Trilanders".
Joyce Snow has a Masters Degree in Organizational Management from Spring Arbor University and a Bachelor Degree in Business from Michigan State University. She has 20 years of management experience in human resources, training and workforce development. She is a trained facilitator, Six Sigma Black Belt, and a Certified Mediator.
Her work knowledge includes compensation and benefits, agriculture, education, grant writing, insurance, government administration, and training. Employment includes HR Director City of Battle Creek, Barry County Commissioner, HR Consulting Director of Lansing Community College, Grant Writing and Management of the Michigan Works! programs in several counties.
Tina has made a career in Customer Service and Business Administration. For the past 15 years her focus has been in Workforce Development. Her experiences include Welfare Reform, Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative and Employment Services. These programs provide training and employment opportunities to various populations. She is currently employed as a Career Coach for West Michigan Works! in Barry County. Tina thoroughly enjoys helping others succeed in finding their PATH to a rewarding career.
Jeff graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg VA with a degree in Psychology and an area of specialization in Human Services Counseling. He has spent 14 years working in the justice system beginning in Michigan with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department/Jail Services. While in Lynchburg he was employed as a Mental Health Counselor for an adolescent treatment center. Upon returning to Michigan in 1999, he has worked with felony offenders in the following areas: probation residential services, the Michigan Department of Corrections probation and parole services, and he spent over 10 years administering the Barry County Adult Drug Court and Office of Community Corrections. Jeff now works in the Community Corrections Service for the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Ralph, now retired, joined Albany International Corp. in 2006. He has served the Company as Senior Vice President – Human Resources since April 3, 2006. From 2004 to April 2006 he served as Head of Human Capital for Deephaven Capital Management. From 1999 to 2004, he served as Vice President – Human Resources and Business Integration for MedSource Technologies. Prior to MedSource, he held the positions of Vice President – Integration, and Vice President – Human Resources for Rubbermaid. From 1974 to 1994, he held various management and executive positions for The Stanley Works.
Dr. Dennis Bona has been President of Northland Community & Technical College since July of 2015. Prior to that he had served as the President of Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek Michigan from 2010 to 2015 and had held several other administrative positions working his way through an extensive career in Higher Education that began with teaching welding in 1981. He distinguished himself as a member of numerous boards and organizations, including the Battle Creek Educators Task Force, Legacy Scholars/BCCAN Board, Southwest Michigan Workforce Development Board, and the executive board for the Michigan Community College Association. He also held leadership roles in several state professional organizations such as Michigan Educators Apprenticeship & Training Association, Michigan Apprenticeship Steering Committee, Michigan Occupational Deans Administrative Council, and Michigan Community College Chief Academic Officers.
He is currently a member of the Grand Forks Area Chamber of Commerce – Business, Government, Education Advisory Committee, Grand Forks Regional Economic Development, Thief Rivers Falls Rotary, Valley Prosperity Partnership, Northwest Minnesota Foundation Impact 20/20 Education Task Force, Thief River Falls Area Community Fund, and is a Trustee on the Binda Foundation Board.
An accomplished speaker, Dr. Bona has presented at State and National Conferences, testified to the Michigan Legislature and the Minnesota State Board of Trustees. He has taught as an adjunct professor for Western Michigan University and Michigan State University and was recognized nationally with the Administrative Leadership Award from the National Council for Learning Resources of the American Association of Community Colleges in 2009. He holds two undergraduate degrees from Ferris State University and both his Master’s and Doctorate degrees are from Western Michigan University.
Judge McDowell attended Michigan State University, and acquired a Bachelor of Arts in Communications in March of 1990. Following her BA in Communications, Judge McDowell attended Valparaiso University School of Law and earned her law degree in May of 1994.
Judge McDowell, loves to relax while reading a great book, but also stays active while spending time with her family, enjoying hiking, biking, and camping.
Above all, Judge McDowell also takes the time to give back to the community. Currently, Judge McDowell is a board member of Spiritual Care Consultants and the Area Agency on Aging. She is also a member of Kiwanis, the General Federation Of Women’s Clubs-Hastings Chapter, and the Thornapple Garden Club. Judge McDowell is also an avid supporter of Barry County charitable organizations, including the Barry County Community Foundation, 4H, Green Gables Haven and Forgotten Man Ministries.
In addition, Judge McDowell serves a committee member of the Family Law and Corrections Section of the Michigan Judges Association, the Community Corrections Advisory Board, the committee to address Elder Abuse with the Commission on Aging, as well as a member of the Starting Over For Success Program, Office of Community Corrections Board and and the Substance Abuse Task Force. She is a frequent speaker at the Cooley Law School Clinic and community functions. She also coaches for the Michigan Youth In Government mock trial team.