November 26, 2012

Myrna Cook, of South Portland, founder of My Sister's Keeper

By Scott Dolan
Staff Writer

Myrna Cook founded My Sister's Keeper in 1999, because of one woman's plight. The program, a volunteer faith and mentoring program that is now funded by Bureau of Justice grant money to help female inmates after they are released from jail, stemmed from Cook's volunteer work with her church, Cape Elizabeth United Methodist.

click image to enlarge

My Sisters Keeper founder Myrna Cook is photographed in the chapel of the Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church on Saturday November 10, 2012.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

"I was in every Thursday afternoon for an hour or hour and a half and met with women who were
interested," Cook said.

At first the meetings were just to let the women to get to know each other. But then Debbie, one of the women, called Cook the morning she was released and told her she had almost no money, no place to live and was going to get her children from a relative who had been caring for them.

"She was on her way to Portland. All she had was $3 in her pocket, but she had to get her children out of there," Cook said.

Cook was scheduled to have a weekly meeting at her home.

"Instead of having a meeting, I told them about this thing that was happening with Debbie," she said.

The women went into action. One found Debbie and her children a room. Another took care of groceries. Within a week, Debbie had a part-time job and her children had a home.

My Sister's Keeper has since expanded to include 35 to 40 trained mentors to women newly released from jail.

"That's how it started," Cook said of My Sister's Keeper. "It was nothing on paper. It was all in the hearts."

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