By Patrick Donachie
In the spacious garage of her Laurelton home, Department of Correction Officer Tina Booker has established a new calling in addition to her work with inmates and fellow corrections staff and her role as the head of Radikal 4 Kidz, a non-profit organization.
Since October 2016, Booker’s garage has been home to the “Full of Faith Christian Center,” where she ministers each Sunday to a small but growing congregation. The opening of the church marked a new chapter in Booker’s spiritual life. She was called to the ministry in 2009 and was ordained as a reverend in 2012.
“I just started seeking a closer relationship with God and knew I was called to something greater because I love people,” she said. “The Bible helped me. Everybody has their different religious beliefs, but it helped me grow, and even encouraged me when coming to work.”
Booker has been with the Correction Department for 18 years, working in security and administrative positions with a wide variety of inmates and staff. In January, the DOC opened a Chaplain’s Office for DOC staff, and Booker is the first officer established as a Correction Department chaplain. In her role, she offers guidance and counsel, comforts ill officers and grieves with those who have experienced loss on the staff.
In addition to her Correction work and her ministry, Booker runs Radikal 4 Kidz, which hosts town hall meetings to bridge the gap between law enforcement and communities, and also organizes family-friendly activities for youth and parents. The organization received its 501(c)(3) status last March.
“These young guys are so creative, these young women are so creative in the things they can do — drawing, writing, it’s phenomenal. And I ask, ‘Where did we drop the ball?’” she said when speaking about the inmates. She hopes her work can help reach younger individuals in the community to keep them out of the criminal justice system. “That could be one less young person that I see behind the gate,”she said.
Booker’s church services typically begin with about 15 minutes of peaceful music and meditation and she said sometimes tears of joy flow from the faces of parishioners. There are scripture reading, a sermon and songs in a relaxed environment Booker said is always buoyed by humor.
“I always say God has a sense of humor. How could there be comedians if we didn’t?” she said. “So many people are scared of church and spirituality. But you have to be you and strive to be the best you.”
Booker is looking for a donated space in Brooklyn or Queens that she can use as a safe haven for neighborhood adolescents to peacefully gather. She continues to work as a correction officer and chaplain, counseling inmates, staff, her parishioners and her community. She said the many hats she wears have made her life very busy, but she was nevertheless joyful about her own call to service.
“I just think people should know when it comes to ministry, there’s an open door of love to receive anyone that walks in through the door,” she said. “Love, care and concern.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona