Blaine woman spearheads post-prison nonprofit group

Published on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Blaine resident Kim Burkhardt recently founded a national nonprofit whose goal is to connect grassroots organizations that work with former prisoners to help them become productive members of society.

Burkhardt said the National Coalition of Community-Based Correctional and Community Re-Entry Service Organizations (NC4RSO) grew out of her desire to provide support and networking opportunities to corrections-related service groups nationwide. The Northern Light recently spoke with Burkhardt about her organization.

Q: When did you form this group?

A: A need was recognized about five years ago, but I was working full time at another job at that time. After increasing amounts of planning and market research, our website went live last November. Our lawyer started helping us develop our incorporation papers and federal nonprofit application starting last fall.

Q: What is the organization’s main goal?

A: Our main goal is to be a national coalition that brings together existing local and regional corrections-related nonprofits around the country for networking and to provide support services for member organizations.

Q: What has the group done so far?

A: Most significantly, we have expanded our membership to include member organizations in several states across the country – all the way from Washington and Oregon to Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The number of member organizations will continue to expand until we have member organizations in every state. Also, two members of our board of directors, myself and Alison Granger-Brown, recently spoke at a conference on Peace, Prisons and Compassion in Mount Vernon hosted by the University of Oregon. In addition, we are in the process of rolling out distance education learning courses for staff and volunteers of member organizations and for recently incarcerated individuals.

Q: Where is NC4RSO based?

A: We are incorporated in Maryland, which is where our lawyer is. Plans are underway to have an office in Maryland in order to have a national presence from a prominent location. Also, our 501(c)3 status is still pending.

Q: How many groups are members of your organization?

A: We have member organizations in seven states so far – all the way from Washington state to Florida. The number of member organizations per state varies from one to seven.

Q: What made you want to start NC4RSO?

A: Because there’s a need for this. I, as the founder, have been volunteering in correctional facilities since 1993. I have lived in both Whatcom County and greater Vancouver, B.C., during that time and volunteered on both sides of the border. I noticed that there are informal mechanisms in Canada for prison-related nonprofits to connect with each other, but nothing equivalent in the U.S. Somebody had to create a mechanism for bringing together U.S. community organizations, and it became clear in the last couple years that I should do it. Fortunately, I’ve had development support of a lawyer, a board of directors and college interns.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with NC4RSO?

A: Our objectives include the following: Be a beneficial member organization for member organizations around the country. Become a national voice for community-based groups in the corrections and re-entry context. Encourage more members of the public across the country to volunteer in the corrections context. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prison population, which is something we need to fix. Our incarceration levels, the associated taxpayer costs and disruptions for individuals, families and communities ­– 2.5 percent of children have a parent in prison – are not going to go away by ignoring them. Communities improve when community members engage in addressing community problems.

Burkhardt can be reached at keb@nc4rso.org, 360/734-1236 or by visiting www.nc4rso.org.