We Care Program enjoys 40 years

Published 1:31 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2010

For 40 years the We Care Program has operated in Atmore with the mission of ministering to prisoners. This week, a celebration will be held to commemorate the beginning of the program.

David Landis, president of We Care, said the celebration set for Saturday will pay tribute to the work of the program over the past 40 years.

“This event will be a public event that will have a celebration feel to it,” Landis said. “It is a commemorative event to celebrate our 40th anniversary.”

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Landis said the event will feature speakers from a variety of backgrounds that will give an overview of the success of the program.

“We will have a former staff member, Arlan Schrock, speaking during the afternoon service,” Landis said. “We will also have some testimony from inmates who have benefited from the program.”

The first portion of the celebration will be a service held at Grace Fellowship beginning at 3 p.m., Landis said.

“This portion of our celebration will be open to the public and everyone is welcome,” Landis said. “We will have dinner following the service at 5 p.m.”

Landis said those who wish to attend the dinner portion of the celebration will need to reserve their space by contacting We Care directly by 5 p.m. July 21.

“We will then move on to our open house at We Care headquarters,” Landis said. “The open house will be from 6 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.”

Landis said the open house is also available during the set time for those who wish to see the workings at the headquarters of the ministry organization.

“During the open house event, we will have the unveiling of a new historical display,” Landis said. “The open house is also open to the public.”

The work of We Care Program’s ministries had humble beginnings when Martin Weber began volunteering at Atmore State Prison Farm in 1964. His ministry grew until the warden suggested he become a guard at the institution. In the years that followed, Weber became state chaplain in 1970, the same year he founded New Life Foundation. This ministry would later evolve into what is now known as the We Care Program.

Over the past two months, We Care ministries has included information in the organization’s monthly newsletters recounting the humble beginnings of the ministry through Weber’s desire to preach in Alabama’s prisons.

According to the newsletter, Weber began preaching in Alabama prisons, mainly Atmore State Prison Farm (Fountain Correctional) and Holman Correctional Facilities in Atmore. Over the years, Martin’s ministry grew in outreach as well as staff when he brought in other “free world” teachers and started a Bible school and a halfway house for released inmates. A group home for troubled teenaged girls, The Bridge, was formed and later changed to focus on assisting trouble teenage boys. As the vision of Weber grew, volunteers joined him and other families joined to carry on the ministry of teaching inmates about Christ. Martins’ success also had an affect on the Alabama Department of Corrections. Through the success of the program, officials were so impressed they finally saw fit to budget money to hire state chaplains for most of Alabama’s prison systems.

The New Life Foundation, instituted in 1970, changed names to the current We Care Program in 1983 after the two groups joined to expand efforts of ministry to Alabama prisons. Weber formed We Care Program in 1982 as a crime prevention program to work at reaching young people before they began a life of crime. As the two entities grew, so did the scope of the group. In 1983, the two programs would become one, taking on the We Care Program name.

For those who plan to attend all or portions of Saturday’s celebration, Grace Fellowship, the site for the program and dinner, is located at 1412 E. Nashville Ave.

We Care headquarters is located at 3493 Hwy. 21 in Atmore.