, an ordained deacon, has spent the past 10 years working to help rebuild lives by empowering the Island's marginalized women to reach their full potential.
provides programming and one-on-one mentoring to female inmates at the Provincial Correctional Centre
Terror struck the moment Cheryl Millman
walked through the jail door.
"Scared to death,'' the minister recalls.
"When those doors banged and started buzzing behind me, I thought, 'What am I getting in to?' ''
was not to be frightened away from what she
saw as her
For four years, she
had nurtured people at The Coffee House at the former CN Pensioner's Club
on King Street.
regularly encountered people facing so much need while enduring such great personal struggle.
"Just lovely people when you sit down and talk to them,'' she
In 2005, Millman and the late Wanda Livingston established Open Door Ministries (recently renamed Open Door Outreach) as a non-profit registered charity.
She notes that Livingston, who had worked at the former Salvation Army Thrift Store for many years, was "street wise'' while Millman was "church wise.''
Programming has grown significantly over the first decade for Open Door
Five different programs are offered to the female inmates at the Provincial Correctional Centre
in Charlottetown with focus on life skills, self-esteem, creating healthy boundaries and even working to improve the prospect for employment.
"I think we really evolved as the need has evolved,'' says Millman
Programming is offered every Tuesday, 50 weeks a year, at the P.E.I. correctional centre on a rotating basis between Millman
and Wendy Hawbolt.
also makes her
way into the jail on Wednesdays to put on a meditation class she
is in awe of the resiliency shown by so many of these women that have endured lives nothing short of hellish.
"It is so easy to judge people ... then you sit down and hear their stories.
There's some horrific stories out there.''
takes each and every positive step made by an inmate as a victory for that person.
Smallman opened up to Millman
talked about her
grieved the loss of her
boys, taken years ago from an unfit mother and placed in foster care.
listened to Millman
, because she
as a person who was genuine in effort and desire to help.
comes across as very warm - a mothering type,'' says Smallman.
"Every time I seen her
would give me a big hug.
You can feel the compassion.''
was also persistent, particularly in one-on-one mentoring.
worked to set Smallman on a better path.
hopes Open Door
has shown women that God loves them and that they have the potential to move forward and leave behind the life of an inmate.