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Charity and Volunteerism
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 02/13/2017

Volunteer One of our February topics is Charity and Volunteerism. If you work in the corrections field, then you should be familiar with the use of volunteers. Corrections agencies have a system and process in place to hire volunteers. The volunteer hours are monitored and become part of a report. These hours, if monetarily reimbursed, would add up to a tremendous amount of money. This is a savings to the agency. At the same time, I would be remiss if I did not mention there are times when some of the volunteers overstep the boundaries and have to be removed from the programs. The benefits thus far outweigh the negatives. Do you know what volunteer programs are available in your agency?

One of the largest prison volunteer programs across the country is ‘Prison Fellowship Ministry.’ The following paragraph describes what this ministry represents: “If you have a passion for sharing the Gospel and serving others, we invite you to consider taking the love and truth of Jesus Christ behind prison walls. Whether your interests lie in prison ministry, advocacy, or family reconciliation, Prison Fellowship will partner with you towards making a difference in the lives of prisoners, their families, and their communities. We encourage you to look through the volunteer opportunities and prayerful consider embracing Jesus’ call to ‘remember the prisoner by becoming a certified Prison Fellowship volunteer.” (Prison Fellowship Ministry).

Included in many prison systems are programs for weekly alcoholic anonymous meetings and narcotics anonymous. We are well aware of the substance abuse problems encountered by offenders. This is an on-going daily battle for many.

I feel you will be surprised at the number of volunteer opportunities and encourage you to become involved. This can be in the community and/or other areas. If you need something to do, go to the internet and do a search by your state corrections systems and volunteers. Currently I reside in the State of Florida and retrieved the following information from the Florida Department of Corrections site. This agency is recruiting for volunteers in the following areas: “Teaching/Facilitating GED (General Education Diploma), TABE (Test for Adult Basic Education), or Vocational Classes; Facilitating Thinking for a Change (T4C); Mentoring, Providing or Facilitating Betterment/Life Skills Assistance; Clerical Duties, Customer Service; Library Services; Health Services; Substance Use Assistance; and working with Veterans.” You can see how the State of Florida Corrections Department compares with other states.

The Bureau of Prisons provides the following statement: “When inmates transition from our institutions to half-way houses, they must readjust to life in the community and find employment. Through faith-based and community/neighborhood organization partnerships, volunteers play an important part in making a positive difference in their lives. As mentors, they provide strong guidance to the inmates and help them to promote accountability. You can assist in meeting the needs of the inmate population by providing a variety of services in different skill areas and/or specific types of programs.” The following areas are in need of volunteers within the Bureau of Prisons: Academic, Vocational/Career, Interpersonal, Wellness, Mental Health, Cognitive, Character, Leisure, and Daily Living. These are only two programs I reviewed. Note the similarities and/or differences in needs.

My next question is this: Do you currently volunteer in your community? If not, are you interested? You are a professional and bring to the community a tremendous background that can be useful. If you are interested in working with people, have communication skills, interests in helping others, becoming part of the community, interests in sports, and other activities, then you meet one of the volunteer requirements. Perhaps you have not considered this before. The following examples may assist in getting you to take the next step and volunteer. Do you have any musical talents? I play the guitar, not professionally. One of my highlights was playing instruments for the elderly at a nursing home. All too often our elderly are in homes with very little contact with family, friends, or anyone outside the home. It brought joy to my heart when I could see the sparkle in the eyes of these elderly individuals. They were very polite and did not care if you were off key. This was the opportunity to do something different. To my surprise the room was full. There were requests for some songs and some even joined in the singing. Smiling faces and the applause will remain with me. Oh what a difference we can make.

You have many talents and it is time to share. I listed some areas below to consider and this certainly is not conclusive. Volunteering in the following areas; elderly, youth groups, school reading programs and other, substance abuse, leisure-time activities, spiritual counseling, religious services, marriage and family issues, preparing and participating in mock job fairs, community projects, working with the homeless, food banks, churches, fund raisers, coaching, hidden talents to share, and other. Wow, these are only a few areas you can become involved in. Take the next step and become involved. You can say, ‘I made a difference.’

Along with this, we all too often become couch potatoes. Do something positive and get involved. Present some volunteer ideas and see if you can generate interests among other potential volunteers. The reward is being able to volunteer and make a difference a someone’s life.

Take the next step, get involved.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Kaplan University, School of Public Safety and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@kaplan.edu.

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