26 years ago, Pastor Peter Fiske first read the Bible to inmates at Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans.
“I had no intention in getting involved in prison ministry,” says Fiske.
To this day, he still preaches there, three days per week.
“God broke my heart open and poured love for prisoners inside and my life has been changed ever since,” says Fiske.
He even got married there to his wife, Joanne, who preaches with him.
“These are all the prisoners here watching the wedding ceremony,” says Fiske, as he shows Local 44’s Megan Carpenter a picture of that day.
Even as the only full-time prison minister in Vermont, this sixth generation Vermonter wanted to do more.
‘A lot of our work is with men and women when they get out of prison because it’s a very difficult transition,” says Fiske. “One of the things that’s the hardest is to find a decent paying job where they can make a living wage.”
This plea from inmates sparked an idea, so Fiske ran with it. Three years ago, he created the New Life Crew. It employs only former inmates, pays them more than minimum wage, and gets workers their own insurance.
“We see where their skills are and market those skills,” Fiske explains. “There are a lot of painters, carpenters, and roofers.”
We had a man who was very skilled in graphics and web design. so we set him up with his own business,” Fiske adds. “He’s now our webmaster.”
The non-profit just became an LLC. It depends primarily on community donations. Fiske, known more fondly as “Pastor Pete,” says the number of employees varies from season to season. Last year, he employed 21 ex-cons.
“Turning ex inmates into taxpayers because of the work they do, that’s a wonderful idea,” says Fiske.
Local 22’s Megan Carpenter chose not to divulge Garry’s last name, the former inmate she spoke with. He spent 32 months in prison and will be out three years this September.
“I went to at least 5 or 6 different facilities, including Kentucky,” Garry says.
He’s still on probation.
‘I made some really bad decisions, my family life had been falling apart, I got separated from my kids and I couldn’t handle it,” says Garry, who started the New Life Crew with Pastor Pete. He’s employed as a sub-contractor.
“I didn’t have any work and I couldn’t find any work so, it slowly fills the gaps in, as I get more independent,” Garry explains.
Garry says he hopes the New Life Crew paves the way for other inmates, as they prepare to face their new lives outside prison walls.
I’ve always been a contributing citizen to society, I’m very patriotic, I was part of a fife and drum core for 20 years,” says Garry. Everybody makes mistakes.”
For Pastor Pete, seeing results and changing lives is the best part.
“It’s fantastic,” says Fiske. “It’s the best job in the world.”
Fiske says the company’s largest church supporter is the Jericho Congregational Church…where he used to be a janitor.