The Bridge Ministry builds a new learning facility in honor of Judge Jay Swett

Published: Nov. 21, 2021 at 7:18 PM EST
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BUCKINGHAM, Va. (WVIR) - Judge Jay Swett Learning Center is coming to The Bridge Ministry campus

“I was raised in an addictive family. My father was an alcoholic, my mother was an alcoholic, and at the age of 14 I ran away from home,” William Washington, the Bridge Ministry founder said.

He faced 17 years in prison for drugs, but Charlottesville Judge Jay Swett granted him an alternative. Washington packed his bags and headed to New Life for Youth, a program designed to help people get clean.

“As I went into that program, I started learning different things about myself,” Washington said.

He wanted to create a program like it, so he created The Bridge Ministry in 1996.

“Bridge Ministry is an 18 month program and helps guys to overcome life controlling issues,” Washington said.

During the year and a half stay, the Bridge students overcome addictive behaviors, and have an opportunity to earn an education.

“95% of the clients that we serve, with all these substance based services, evidence based programing, vocational training that ends up in career jobs. It is all done for them for free,” assistant director, Jay James said.

To provide a better educational experience for the men in the program, a new learning center is coming to the Bridge’s campus.

It will be named after Judge Jay Swett, to honor him for the grace he showed William.

“We’ll also use this building for other functions, community functions, for family functions, all those kinds of things. I believe this will really become the hub of what we do here in terms of teaching and learning,” teacher and director of operations, Charlie Towler said.

While the construction is in the works, they need more resources to complete the building.

“So, when we’re being called upon to serve people who don’t have resources, we have to go out and acquire those resources,” James said.

The Judge Jay T. Swett Learning Center will be finished by early 2022.

To donate you can email: or call (434) 969-2991. The address is P.O. Box 2402Charlottesville, VA 22902.

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