A $1 million fundraising project to build a worship center adjacent to the Ellen Halbert Unit women’s prison in Burnet has reached the halfway mark.
Joseph’s Hammer hopes to raise the additional $500,000 over the rest of the year with the help of a $200,000 matching fund. A $150,000 matching fund helped double the donations up to that amount for the first half of the project, which has certainly helped, considering the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to fundraising events.
“God has continued to put the worship center on people’s hearts,” said Pam Stevenson, who chairs the nonprofit’s board of directors. “When we first started this project, we had the flood (October 2018), now we have COVID — all these hiccups along the way, but still money has come through private donations.”
The Ellen Halbert Unit, which has been in Burnet for 25 years, is a six-month substance abuse treatment and in-prison therapeutic community for women. Joseph’s Hammer’s goal in building a worship center is to provide a place for classes that will help the women learn valuable skills needed for re-entrance into society.
“The chaplaincy programs use about 200 volunteers from our community,” Stevenson said. “We go in and teach Bible studies and different programs, some faith-based, to help them reconcile with family members and to stay on track when they are released. We help give them the tools they need to succeed.”
Currently, the prison has classrooms that seat about 26 people. More than 40 sign up for classes and have to be put on waiting lists.
“The chaplain doesn’t even have a place to hold a worship service,” Stevenson added. “We desperately need a chapel there. He uses a classroom sometimes, but they are too small.”
The worship center will be built on site adjacent to the prison, which is located at 800 Ellen Halbert Drive in Burnet.