New Winners’ Circle in Bloomington; Replicating the Model Nationally

(Chicago) — On November 6, a new Winners’ Circle will begin in Bloomington, IL. Winners’ Circles are peer-led support groups for people in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction and who also have been on probation or incarcerated.

The trauma of incarceration, stigma of a criminal record, and associated collateral consequences (such as barriers to housing and employment) create specials needs and challenges for formerly incarcerated people who are in recovery. Winners’ Circles help address these unique needs by offering safe, positive, non-judgmental places where participants can develop healthy lifestyles and share support, encouragement, and success with others at similar places in their lives. Related groups, called Inner Circles, provide this same support to individuals who are incarcerated.

“The goal of the Winners’ Circle is to fill a void as people reenter their communities after they’ve been incarcerated,” said Millicent Lewis McCoy, director of corrections transition programs at TASC. “Winners’ Circles help participants build a strong network to support them in living a substance- and crime-free life.”

The Bloomington Winners’ Circle will meet on Tuesdays 5PM to 6PM, beginning November 6. Sessions will be held at the Family Community Resource Center, 509 W. Washington St., Bloomington, IL. Family members and friends are welcome.

A Nationally Replicated Model of Peer Support

Originally established in Connecticut in 1988, the Winners’ Circle model has since been replicated in several states. Each Winners’ Circle is designed to be independent and self-sustaining. In Illinois, TASC helps guide the development of Winners’ Circles by providing training for Winners’ Circle leaders, and by working with community partners to establish locations for meetings.

While facilitating the growth of Winners’ Circles in Illinois, TASC also provides information and training to support their development in other states.

In June, justice stakeholders from Columbus, IN, came to Chicago to meet with TASC to learn more about Winners’ Circles. Rob Gaskill, director of residential services for Bartholomew (IN) County Jail, county jail staff, and graduates of the county’s women’s reentry program—WRAP (Women Recovering with A Purpose)—observed both Winners’ Circle and Inner Circle meetings. Inspired by what they learned and observed, they are now creating a Winners’ Circle in their community.

“It’s gratifying to see Winners’ Circle spread to many communities,” said Toy Beasley, recovery support coordinator at TASC. “These groups provide support, hope, and healing that people might not be able to get elsewhere in their lives.

“When people have lost hope, Winners’ Circle can help them find it.”

To find out more about Winners’ Circles in Illinois, please contact Toy Beasley at or 309-868-0681, or at TASC’s toll-free number: 855-827-2444.

To learn about training opportunities for Winners’ Circle facilitators outside of Illinois, contact Phillip Barbour, TASC master trainer.

Left to right: Jessica Olson, WRAP; Leslie Harden, WRAP; Angela Smith, Bartholomew County Community Corrections; Maria Sandoval, WRAP; Bethany Peetz, Bartholomew Community Corrections; Deborah Shannon, WRAP; Geri Lynne Cooper, Winners’ Circle Illinois; Rob Gaskill, Bartholomew County Community Corrections