Extended Family Executive Director Laure Clemons and staff recently led a training for Extended Family for Kids (EFK) Program Leaders and, as is our standard practice, collected surveys from participants to gauge what each thought about the training.  One comment stood out from someone who really grasped the big picture, “Thank you for creating a program at what may have been your time of darkness and bringing light to our youth!”

Laure Clemons created Extended Family 20 years ago when her husband, Jerry, went away to prison.  During the six years her husband was incarcerated, Laure reached out to community members and looked around online for programs to help her and her daughters navigate all the struggles involved in having a loved one incarcerated.  What she was told repeatedly and found from her searching was thatthere were not any programs in her areadesigned to help families with the shared stigma and all of the emotions that she and her girls were feeling.

Extended Family has a new lesson for our older kids who are in Extended Leadership Academy (ELA) called “Obstacles vs. Challenges,” which was developed by one of our Program Leaders, Cary Weaver.  He created this lesson based on his own life experiences for the ELA curriculum.  The lesson teaches that life presents many obstacles which stand between people and their goals, which, when faced, present us with two choices:  the obstacle can stop you so that you quit pursuing that goal, or you can face that obstacle as a challenge and work your way around it.

Our Kids are very fortunate to have Jerry and Laure Clemons on their side.  Laure faced the obstacle of Jerry going to prison and was challenged to create Extended Family so that other family members of prisoners would not have to face this alone.  Hundreds of families have been helped by EFK and ELA programs in schools and after-school programs, which were created by Laure.  Several hundred more families have been helped by Extended Family Going Home workshops, presented by Jerry, for prisoners who are transitioning back home and by visiting our website, www.extendedfamilyhelp.org, which is filled with resources for families to help with emotional, mental, and physical adversities of incarceration and returning home.

Extended Family is a living example of taking an obstacle filled with darkness and accepting the challenge of turning it into a program which brings light to families and Our Kids!  If you are interested in bringing Extended Family programs into your community, contact Laure Clemons at laure@extendedfamilyhelp.org.

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