In the summer of 2004, Release opened our first residential group home with the goal of supporting teens who were transitioning from the juvenile justice system and preparing them to live independently.
From family dinners to birthday parties, from graduations to baby showers, from the celebration of first jobs to the hopeful but painful goodbyes, the Release Homes tried to offer teens a stable home, a safe place to sort out the baggage they had brought with them, and the presence of a loving adult to speak hope and cast the vision of a bright future. It was intense, and the battle for these young men’s hearts was a fierce and exhausting struggle. But at the end of the day, the truth was that God loved these young people with a relentless devotion and all our staff could do was try to embody that “I love you no matter what” kind of love.
In the spring of 2020, Release made the decision to close our residential homes and continue serving the same population through our other efforts in foster care, institutional, mentoring, and community-based services. Coming to this decision was difficult, because it was a model in which we witnessed the transformative work of the gospel. But we know that God’s “I love you no matter what” kind of love can move into people’s lives in countless ways, and Release is not lessening our commitment to love but are trying to follow the leading of God in how we go about it.
As we considered the work of our founder Bill Ellett, we believe he would still support our efforts and our direction. One thing he clearly heard God tell him was, “More homes, more mission.” We consider this in our decision making and in our daily work as our other programs develop and we reach to families in the community.
“To everything there is a season” writes the wise writer of Ecclesiastes. As this unique season of ministry comes to a close, we celebrate the efforts of so many who labored in the homes, and we are so thankful for the teens we got to know and love through the homes. In the last 17 years, God lead, provided, sustained, and directed this work, and may He do the same as He leads us into new things.
Stay tuned, for in coming blogs, you will hear from former staff and residents about what the homes meant to them.
Thank you to Becky Swanberg for sharing your words and your heart with this blog!