We don't just remember those in prison—we go to them.
Jose Campos still remembers the Prison Fellowship® volunteers he met during his incarceration at Rikers Island Jail. "They teach you how to be humble, how to be a brother to one another," he says. "It helped me dig deeper into my life ... making me feel comfortable, and making me feel like, well, if they can say [Jesus changed their life], I can too."
Prison Fellowship relies on thousands of well-trained, committed volunteers who generously give their time and efforts to restore those affected by crime and incarceration. During National Volunteer Month—when volunteers and others in dedicated community service are honored—three states' departments of corrections recognized men and women from Prison Fellowship for their dedication to igniting hope in dark places.
A CHANCE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Just a few hours' drive from Prison Fellowship’s headquarters, the Virginia Department of Corrections thanked the volunteers in the Prison Fellowship Academy® at St. Brides Correctional Center, among a handful of the DOC's most effective partners this year. Statewide volunteer efforts of all kinds, including the Academy, are valued around $2.76 million per year. Yet Virginia DOC Director Harold Clark says the true value can't be counted: "Volunteers make invaluable contributions to the department. Their generosity of spirit lifts offenders and propels the agency forward in its efforts to help people be better."
In his second year as an Academy program counselor, Andrew Iwe was recently selected by the Texas Board of Criminal Justice to receive the prestigious Governor's Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award. Andrew, who serves at the Carol S. Vance Unit in Richmond, Texas, was running a private counseling practice when he saw the ad for a job with Prison Fellowship and decided to apply. He says, "I fell in love with it right away, because there were people in there who needed me. A chance to make a difference—that's what I've been praying for my whole life."
In neighboring Oklahoma, Prison Fellowship Academy manager Tammy Franklin—who, like Andrew, works with an entire team of faithful, hardworking volunteers—was highlighted for her meaningful leadership and service at Kate Barnard Correctional Center. It's the same facility where, in years past, Tammy once served time before finding Christ, purpose, and freedom from addiction. As a former recipient of encouragement and guidance from volunteers, she knows firsthand the lasting impact of their efforts.
"It gives a person purpose to be part of somebody's life," says Tammy. "It was because the volunteers who came in and taught me something different that I was able to find hope and change so to give that back doesn't get any better. It just doesn't."
A LIFE-CHANGING OPPORTUNITY
Could a volunteer role at Prison Fellowship be your next step? There's a lot to keep in mind as you research the opportunity and get started, but there's good news: We've done the homework for you. With more than 40 years of experience going behind bars, Prison Fellowship employs top-tier staff and subject-matter experts to train all volunteers before they step foot in prison for the first time.
Simply choose your area of interest, apply to participate, and dive into the step-by-step training resources including videos, review sheets, and quizzes. Whether you are mentoring, teaching a class, or leading a Bible study, Prison Fellowship will provide the knowledge, skills, and confidence each volunteer needs to serve efficiently and effectively. Serving in prisons of all security levels, Prison Fellowship teams are trained to abide by facility protocol and safety measures, stay with officers/proper escorts at all times, and ensure a safe experience for all.
Please note that available programming and volunteer opportunities will vary depending on where you live.
From former prisoners like Tammy Franklin to counselors like Andrew Iwe, people of all backgrounds, interests, and skillsets have found their niche as in-prison volunteers with Prison Fellowship. Our volunteers answer the call to remember those in prison and keep the mission moving forward. And as they strive to serve and to minister, more often than not, they end up being ministered to as well.
"When we serve, we think no one is watching," says Iwe. "You've got a story to tell people—trust in God and prayer really work. All of this comes together to make a difference in the lives of people."
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