Let’s Start Program Helps Former Prisoners Rebuild Their Lives
Pat Hofmeister, a member of the Missouri Area Order of Malta, has been working in Prison Ministry for the past nine years. She devotes her time to the Let’s Start Program in St. Louis. Started in 1989 by Sister Jackie Tobin, Let’s Start works with formerly incarcerated women and their children in support of recovery and reentry. The program provides weekly support meetings; clothing and personal-care supplies; and, pre-Covid-19, a dinner the third Tuesday of every month.
After learning nine years ago that the Missouri Area was interested in starting a Prison Ministry program, Pat and her husband, Ron, decided to participate. Pat holds a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy and has been interested in recidivism in women prisoners for years, so the program appealed to her.
The next step was to meet Sister Jackie Tobin. Then, Pat attended a Tuesday-night Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous meeting hosted by Let’s Start. “I thought that I would just go every now and then,” Pat said. “But once you go, and you start hearing the stories of these women, you get very involved.”
Pat increased her involvement by taking on the task of organizing the meal every third Tuesday of the month. She helped create an extensive menu and worked with about 30 members of the Order of Malta who either provided funds, which Pat used to buy the food and prepare meals, or did the shopping and cooking themselves.
The meetings are virtual now; but, Pat continues to help organize them and to understand their importance to these women working to rebuild their lives. She still thinks of her very first meeting and how, having had no idea what to expect, she was moved by the experience. She had brought some basic items to give to the women, and, when Pat handed one of the program participants a bar of soap, the woman started crying, saying, “You don’t even know me, and you’re trying to help me.” Pat said: “She was so appreciative. And so, that’s the kind of thing that obviously the Holy Spirit wanted me to understand, that just my presence was so very important.”