In the late 1970s, a group of people from the Church of the Servant CRC namely, Prof. Leonard Sweetman, Ken Andree and Rev. Don Griffioen researched the idea of an aftercare and reentry ministry for ex-offenders in the Grand Rapids area.  Five Classes, groups of Christian Reformed churches, supported the idea and provided funding.  Rev. James Vander Schaaf was appointed Executive Director of this new ministry named the Criminal Justice Chaplaincy (CJC).

The CJC Vision

Biblical restorative justice requires reconciliation to victims and perpetrators of crime through Christ’s love and compassion.

The CJC Mission

That people whose lives are affected by crime may experience justice, mercy and healing.

The first office was in the Heartside area of Grand Rapids.  After CJC’s introduction to the Corrections System, persons were soon referred for services.  Pastoral Care and Counseling and other basic needs of food, clothing and shelter were requested and for serving females, CJC would need a female social worker. 

In 1982, Kathy Laarman was hired to manage female clients.  She developed the Take Charge Program (Life-Skills Education), still held today at Calvin CRC.  Along with Kathy came Chris Boender in 1989, who developed the Horticultural Therapy Program in 1999. 

The need for volunteers became evident and two unrelated persons volunteered their services for 5 years, Sally Miedema and Millie Miedema. Millie also embarked on providing Hygiene Care packages, a blessing which has continued and currently organized by Mary Wynia.  One person who provided such packages for 15 years with the help of Providence CRC was the late Tillie Cooke.  Psychiatrist Dr. Russel Brubaker, MD, consulted as a volunteer for 15 years.  We continue to be blessed by the services of volunteers, too numerous to mention.  Our staff has included Hope Bradley in administration until 2008, and Eda Leach, an outstanding case manager for 10 years with female clients.  Mary VanderMeer, Aldeen Mitchell, Mary Jewell, Sarah Exoo and many wonderful interns have worked in the CJC office and supported the ministry over the years

The current Administrative Assistant and Office Manager is Cheryl Wyma,who also is responsible for the Bicycle Program and the Community Reentry Fellowship lunches .  Other aspects of ministry include the Mentoring Services Program, currently managed by Laurie Morren, which began in earnest in 2005.  Over 150 volunteers have served in this capacity and there are ongoing relationships with nearly 40 mentees, on average, per annum, over the last 5 years.  Sarah Rhein is the Program and Volunteer Manager.  She was assisted in the Mentoring Program by Bill Stroo with  training and recruiting until his retirement in 2015.  Ben Rosa serves as Case Manager and Community Outreach Liaison.  Debbie Albert directs our Horticultural Therapy Program, she succeeds Betsy Brown who successfully ran the program for 13 years until her retirement in 2013. Kay Yoder organized our books through 2014, for 22 years.  Our new Bookkeeper is Lynne Stolk. Patiently leading, guiding and blessing CJC from its beginning and for 34 years was Executive Director James VanderSchaaf until his retirement in 2015.  Darlene "Dee" Obrecht is now the Executive Director leading CJC to the future.

The development of CJC, as an independent agency in 1994, required a Board of Directors, supplemented by an Advisory Committee to the Board.  Along with the Honorable George Buth, who has the longest tenure as a Board member, the following persons give faithfully of their time: Richard Hillary II; Larry Hobbie; Myles Kuperus; Marcia Vander Woude; and James Jones.  Many others have served on the Board of Directors and on the Board Advisory Committee over the years including:  Herb Brinks, Anna Greidanus, Andrew Ganzevoort, Brian Hofstra, Scott Johnston, Dave Morren and Steve Morren.

CJC has been blessed by God and His people for over 35 years and has always strived to bless those we serve.  Our prayer is for this to continue!