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DINNER CELEBRATES YEAR OF PROGRESS FOR JAIL MINISTRY

With nothing but time on their hands and trouble on their minds, even short stays in jail can be depressing chapters in people's lives.

The Rev. William Whitmore tries to change that with a sympathetic ear and some comforting words. Mr. Whitmore is chaplain of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry of Niagara County.

He'll soon be celebrating his first anniversary as chaplain. Prior to that, however, he'll host the Ministry's annual banquet, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Best Western Inn, 515 S. Transit Road.

"It's a time to celebrate what God has been doing in this ministry for the past year," Mr. Whitmore said. The guest speaker will be Calvin Scott, national field director for Good News Jail and Prison Ministries. Tickets are $15 and available by calling Mr. Whitmore at 438-3316.

Mr. Whitmore, who took over from popular longtime chaplain Russell Isler earlier this year when Mr. Isler left the area to pursue other interests, said that he has seen "a lot of lives changed by the power of Christ" in the ensuing months.

"A lot of guys are getting to know the word better through Jesus Christ," Mr. Whitmore said. "We're seeing a lot of fruit in the ministry."

His visits and Bible study sessions help numerous prisoners at the Niagara County Jail, Sheriff Thomas Beilein said. He believes that Mr. Whitmore's work ultimately helps some prisoners abstain from re-offending.

"He knew going in that Russell (Isler) was kind of a legend here," Beilein said of Mr. Whitmore. "It had to be difficult for him because Russell was so well-liked. And Russell is missed. Bill is only about half of Russell's size, but he has stepped up to the plate and has accepted the challenge. He seems to be doing a very good job."

Kenneth Moore of Niagara Falls is one of those Mr. Whitmore helped. Moore was incarcerated for a short time recently for contempt of court, and was in turmoil because of his strong feeling that he was not "a criminal."

Rev. Whitmore was conducting a Bible study session on Moore's first day in the jail "and I just wandered in there and sat down," he said. "I was new to it, but I got into it.

"He helped me out spiritually, to cope better with the situation I was in."

And he helped others as well, Moore said.

"He gave people a little camaraderie, answered a lot of questions -- why things happen," Moore said. "He gave you the strength to deal with your situation, and also some hope that there is a higher power out there who looks out for you."

Mr. Whitmore said that attendance at the Bible study sessions has been increasing, a fact he finds encouraging.

"We've added a few new volunteers" to help conduct sessions, make rounds and minister to inmates individually, he said. "We're having more and more inmates come to faith in Jesus Christ, and we go on from there.

"The ministry's motto is 'breaking the cycle of crime, one life at a time,' and that is absolutely happening."

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