MALVERN, AR — A Hot Spring County church is helping parolees stay out of prison for good. It has had a program in place for five years that helps them find jobs, but thanks to Governor Asa Hutchinson, now it can help parolees find housing.

Pastor Ian Kumpe on New Beginnings Church in Malvern drove to and from a welding shop in Malvern every afternoon so he could help a parolee stay on the right path. That parolee was William “Buddy” Wigley.

Wigley was serving a 23-year sentence on parole for violating his parole, but said his main problem dealt with drug use. During his time behinds bars, he learned the trade of welding.

“Because of that, I don’t have to go climb through people’s windows or sell drugs. I’ve got a job skill so I don’t have to,” he said.

Pastor Ian got Buddy the job and was letting him live in his home until he was able to save up enough money to live on his own and afford a car. These were all friendly favors to help steer Buddy away from his old ways and show him a better life than drug addiction.

“If they knew that they had someone that cared about them, then they’re more likely to do right,” Pastor Ian told FOX 16 News reporter, Leah Uko.

Pastor Ian started R.E.A.L. five years ago. The program, which stood for Reaching Every Addictive Lifestyle, helped parolees and people on probation find work prior to their release date.
He said the church was serving 50 to 75 parolees and people on probation. The program also helped them with drug, alcohol and anger management treatment every Tuesday night at 6:30 during its recovery program.

But the church’s efforts were growing. Thanks to a grant approved by Governor Hutchinson, non-profit organizations across the state like New Beginnings Church would be able to collectively house 500 inmates twice a year six months prior to their release dates.

For the first month, the inmates will get treatment. The second month organizations will start helping them find jobs. During the third and fourth months, the inmates should be working. The fifth month is the last month of the program before they go to housing so that by the six month, they should have their own homes and steady income.

The program should go into effect July this year Pastor Ian said.

Buddy said the grant would help others like him who once felt helpless after serving their time and almost considered taking the easy way out.

“It’s really stressful to somebody to get put in that situation,” he said in the car riding home with Pastor Ian. “The easiest way out of it is to go back to, well, ‘I’ll just go get high and forget about it’.”

Leah Uko contributed to this report. To follow story coverage with Leah Uko on Facebook click here. To follow story updates with Leah Uko on Twitter click here.