The St. Cloud Center That’s Creating Second Chances
“Come one, come all.” That’s the philosophy behind The Dream Center of St. Cloud, a Christian-based nonprofit recovery center in Minnesota.
The Dream Center is part of Overcomers International Fellowship, a network of four facilities that offer housing, job coaching, counseling, and community activities for men who struggle with mental health issues, criminal histories, chemical dependencies, and learning or physical disabilities.
A spirit of acceptance and brotherhood infuses every aspect of the program. Residents are matched with personal caseworkers and mentors who provide support and help the residents set weekly personal goals. As residents meet their goals, progress through the program, and maintain a commitment to accountability, they gain more freedom.
The Dream Center’s partnership with local universities enables residents to get free job coaching. Business majors help residents create resumes, hone interview skills, and search for jobs. They even create business plans for those who want to start small businesses. Pastor Michael Laidlaw, Founder of The Dream Center, says the time spent with business majors is instrumental in cultivating confidence and a sense of empowerment for the residents. In fact, most residents are employed within two weeks of starting their job searches.
The support doesn’t stop with graduation, either – past residents are given aftercare plans designed to help them successfully reintegrate into society and maintain independence. The program encourages residents to leave the past behind and embrace the idea of “a second chance.” Pastor Laidlaw comments, “our whole point is not to warehouse people, but to move them through and get them back into the community.”
No one anticipated the tremendous growth of The Dream Center. It started as a simple advocacy and assistance ministry that Pastor Laidlaw began in his home in 1991. The program soon outgrew his house and Overcomers International Fellowship was founded in 1995. Today’s four-facility network houses more than 40 men and offers everything from education classes to support groups to transportation.
Last fall, The Dream Center came to Lendio for an ACH loan. The staff was struggling to manage business finances and stay on top of payables. The financing helped The Dream Center catch up on bills, invest in programs, and – most importantly – keep creating second chances for its residents.