The Cornerstone Transition Home held the first graduation ceremony on Sunday, February 12th. The ceremony took place at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center. Cornerstone graduated three ladies, Rhonda DuCharme, Michelle Bowers, and Kelly Emerson.

            Cornerstone is a licensed transition home by Arkansas Community Corrections (ACC).  ACC requires a stay of 90 days; however, with an invitation, the ladies are invited to stay up to a year or longer.  The invitation is based upon how well the resident has adjusted to the structures and routines of Cornerstone.  Should an invitation to stay not be extended and/or if one of the ladies decides to leave, the leadership tries to help find suitable housing and support from family or safe friends.

            Cornerstone has assisted 33 women who have either paroled to it from prison or entered the facility from a long-term rehab program, where extra assistance is still desired.  Of the 33 women, 14 of them remain at Cornerstone.  Five of the 14 women remained within the required 90 days and nine of the fourteen are staying because they understand the need for accountability, love, and support that this ministry provides.  

            In order to remain for a year, the residents have found employment, respected the rules of the home, worked toward paying fines and restitutions, and have begun the transition to successful members of society. 

            The first graduate, Rhonda DuCharme, works at Unity Health - Harris Medical Center in the dietary department.  While working full-time, she has also assisted at Cornerstone as a resident leader.  In this role, she is able to supervise other ladies in the house.  Upon graduation, Rhonda desires to stay at Cornerstone, continue to work for Unity and assist Cornerstone in a leadership role.  

            The second graduate, Kelly Emerson, has been serving at Cornerstone since she completed her 90 days.  For nine months she has chauffeured the ladies, as head of transportation. This is often from sun up to late in the evening. She has provided transportation for the ladies up to 10-15 different locations a day.  Kelly desires to remain at Cornerstone and continue to assist in a leadership role.  Kelly has a passion for the jail ministry. She, along with three or four other residents, ministers to ladies at the Jackson County Jail twice a month.

            The third graduate, Michelle Bowers, is a manager at Hardee's.  She has worked hard to pay off fines and save money. Her plans are to purchase a vehicle and find an apartment in town so that she can continue her employment, while making Newport her home. All the while, Michelle can stay connected to the Cornerstone family for support and accountability. 

            Cornerstone is a tremendous asset to the Arkansas Department of Corrections and has changed the lives of these ladies and will continue with the support of this wonderful community. A special thank you to Whitney Cooper Photography for the lovely photos.