Believe in Second Chances?
Rotary Club of Harrisburg Members Make a Difference in Someone’s Troubled Life!
Maybe you believe in giving people a second chance, maybe a third; maybe beyond.  That seems to be the common denominator of those Rotary Club of Harrisburg members serving on the Care Court outreach. 
Started in 2009 by two exceptional Rotarians The Honorable Yvette Kane United States District Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and then Rotary Club of Harrisburg president and known people activist Karen Snyder.  The dynamic duo brought a concept of caring and compassion in the court to life.
Care Court is designed to give those who were incarcerated a hand up. It gives them someone outside the federal court system to help face the challenges of everyday life when they may have had no role model or languished too many years in “the system.”  Since its founding, the Care Court concept has been a role model for other similar programs around the nation.  In-person meetings are currently on hold due to the pandemic restrictions.
In a unique approach, Care Court is a completely voluntary commitment at all levels.  Those adults leaving incarceration who are seeking that second chance, members of the regional federal judicial system and, of course, our Club’s members/volunteers make the Care Court a reality today.
RCH Care Court Chair Richard Utley notes, “one of our most unique gifts to the mentee is a fresh perspective on what they can accomplish with the right attitude and direction.”  Participants, volunteers from the judicial system and Rotary volunteers typically meet monthly to provide a support group and get updates.  Utley noted that during the pandemic, meetings are on hold, but he hopes they resume soon.
Prior to the pandemic, RCH Care Court committee members met directly with their assigned participants on an as needed and mutually agreed basis.  Often these meetings allowed RCH mentors to just listen or help navigate the unfamiliar and challenging life outside imprisonment.  It is hoped in-person meetings can resume.
A long-time committee Karen Paris adds, “We often help participants with practical stuff like budgeting, developing a resume for a job, listening to family challenges or just talking over a cup of coffee.  The mentors often find that their personal life experiences are just what the mentee needs to start making the right decisions in life.”
A Care Court volunteer working in the federal judicial system, Daniel Karhnak, Senior US Probation Officer, first volunteered in 2013.  Having started as a probation officer he knew he wanted to work in the judicial system as he likes, “helping people learn how to make better decisions.  Helping them think more clearly and weigh the consequences of their actions.”  While this sounds so simple to many of us, He sees many of those “in the system” come from broken homes and have had little positive parental support in life.
Karhnak also complimented the Rotarian volunteers’ engagement.  “Rotary mentors are a key component and are absolutely essential to the success of this program.”