November Jefferson Award: Heidi Smith

Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 4:59 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KXLT) – Next Chapter Ministries started out as a Bible study in the Olmsted County Jail in the late 1990s. Then, to help those released from incarceration, a second group was formed after a realization of a need for help.

Next Chapter Ministries was born from there as an organization to help those impacted by the cycle of incarceration and trying to help break the cycle by restoring relationships with God, family and community.

“The antidote for hopelessness, is hope and we believe that comes from the promises of Jesus Christ,” said Executive Director Courtney Dugstad.

The organization has multiple houses to house people as they transition back from incarceration while offering a myriad to programs on a longer scale lasting months or even years.

For an organization helping hundreds each year, volunteer support is greatly needed. Heidi Smith has been volunteering for years.

She’s a grief counselor by day but also comes to the house multiple times a day to offer her support, listen and professional advice. She also goes to the VonWald Youth Shelter, which is a place for youth in crisis.

“That has been my role here at Next Chapter, to be able to bear witness to some of these stories and to acknowledge their pain and allow them to be real,” Smith said.

Smith also leads a Bible study which is the most important component of the work Next Chapter Ministries does.

“Tomorrow is going to be better than today and we want to share that hope with folks that have experienced brokenness and hopelessness and have a desire for something different,” Dugstad said.

“For me, true hope comes through the gospel through the message that we are created in the image of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God who has a purpose and plan for our life,” Smith said.

To learn more about Next Chapter Ministries, click here.

If you know someone who is deserving of a Jefferson Award, you can nominate them here.