TDCJ Volunteer Services November 2014 Newsletter

Texas Department of Criminal Justice Volunteer Services

Volunteer Services Newsletter November 2014

Volunteers Donate a 280-foot Sidewalk

EA chapel

The Eastham Unit is gearing up for family-friendly programs.  In 2012, volunteers completed the renovation of an old gym.  The space was redesigned into a 500-seat chapel.  Until recently, the chapel was only accessible by walking through the offender housing areas.  "The entrance prevented it use for family programs.  The new sidewalk allows for easier access for offenders' children," said Senior Warden, Charles Bell.

The sidewalk was decorated by several offender artists.  The artists used children's books for inspiration (see photo).  The unit plans to host an "A Day with Dad" program in 2015.  

Bridges To Life - Miracles Are Happening Everyday!

(Written by John Sage the founder of the Bridges to Life Program.)

"Sometimes things happen in our lives that we call coincidences, serendipity, confirmations, or just simply miracles. Since I founded Bridges To Life (BTL), these events happen fairly often. I would like to share one of the most unlikely "coincidences" I have ever experienced, and I place it in the miracle category.  I was recently in the Texas Panhandle visiting some of our prison projects. The second night I was there started out as a problem-ridden evening, including a car breakdown on the side of the road half way between Amarillo and Pampa. We asked another volunteer to come from Amarillo and drive us to the prison, where we started our BTL meeting one hour late. In the midst of all of this, a team of mechanically-inclined BTL volunteers from Pampa went out and fixed the broken vehicle, while the rest of us were conducting the BTL prison meeting.  After the BTL meeting at the Jordan Unit, several of the volunteers and I went to a small burger restaurant in Pampa to have a late dinner. After placing my order at the counter, I was approached by a man who, by his clothes and looks, had obviously had a very long day painting and working. He said, 'You are John Sage. My name is Billy and I want to talk to you. I just got out of prison in July and I took your program at the Stringfellow Unit one year ago. I want to tell you how much it helped me and how well I am doing now.'  The Stringfellow Prison Unit is in Brazoria County, about 650 miles from Pampa. I live in Houston, almost 600 miles from Pampa. I only attended two meetings at the project where Billy was a participant. What are the odds of this chance meeting, and him recognizing me immediately? He went on to tell me that he gets up at 4 a.m. every day and surrenders his life to God, attends AA meetings daily, and is getting more work for remodeling and repairing houses than he can handle. He showed up in Pampa three months ago with $5 in his pocket. He now has earned enough to buy a used truck and have $2,000 in the bank. 'I am living a simple life and back with my wife, who waited on me for 10 years. God did all this for me based on my daily surrender to Him.' Billy went to prison four times for a total of 20 years, but he says 'never again.' His last arrest involved being shot four times by a police officer while evading arrest. He ended our encounter by looking me square in the eyes and saying, 'I want to thank you for stepping out to help guys like me. I cannot express how much I appreciate what you have done.' He was also thanking each of you who have volunteered or donated to BTL. I was truly stunned by the whole experience. Given the time and place, it was surreal.  BTL is a major endeavor that requires the help of many people. Thank you for bringing miracles to men and women who desperately need our collective time and treasure." 

Read more about John's life experiences that led to establishing Bridges to Life...

Segovia Unit Marriage Seminar

marriage seminar

Congratulations to eight couples on completing the Segovia Unit Marriage Seminar conducted by TDCJ volunteers Mike and Pat Theopistos.  A special thanks to Chick-Fil-A for donating meals for a "dinner date."  The seminar provided great resources to assist participants in building a better marriage and tools on how to be a Godly husband and wife.

Submit an Article to be Featured in a Future Volunteer E-Newsletter

Are you "Paying it Forward?"  Volunteer Services wants to spotlight approved TDCJ volunteers who are ex-offenders.  More specifically, we want to hear what you are doing in your community with regards to "Paying It Forward."

We are looking for ex-offenders who:

  • Served time in TDCJ
  • Are an approved volunteer with the TDCJ
  • Have received no new charges since being released
  • Have been out of prison for longer than three years (Parolees who are approved volunteers are eligible)

Submit an article using less than 100 words, feel free to use links to online references such as a website.  If applicable, feel free to mention a TDCJ staff member or volunteer who made a difference in your life's transition.  Provide a contact email and submit a photo of yourself that is relevant to your service.