We provide services to families and children, and their incarcerated and formerly incarcerated family members and address the unintentional consequences of incarceration through specialized services that address the immediate and long-term needs of our clients.
It seems to me that if there is a “Giving Tuesday” that there should also be a “Thankful Thursday” to thank each of you for giving to Friends Outside LA such as through your financial contributions, volunteer time, and overall support of our Mission.
Wishing each of you an enjoyable, safe, and healthy December. Don’t eat too much but show your love for others a lot!
During a previous Thomas Fleming Rhodes Memorial Holiday Party, young Adam looked up at me and said, “This is the only fun thing my family has done this whole year.” This was not a surprising statement for me. Over the past 30 years I have gotten to know children with incarcerated parents and their families well. Their stories are too similar. And, too many are from impoverished families and live in crime-ridden communities.
Except for an occasional visit to a prison or jail (to keep family bonds strong), their families have limited social lives and cannot afford to participate in the parties that most of us take for granted during the December Holidays. Their children quietly suffer, feel different, and are ashamed of their circumstances.
Your support has enabled us to plan special parties for these children at the time of year that is the most difficult for them. One year a mother told me after the party that her child had thought he was the only one with an incarcerated parent. He then realized he was not alone and didn’t feel so different from the other kids!
Your support for the parties to be held in December will make a world of difference for these children. Won’t you say YES to assuring that they have a wonderful Holiday through your support as follows:
Sponsor: Your $5,000 or $1,000 gift will be the “frosting on the cake” for each party and will enable us to do so much for the families throughout the coming year.
Co-Sponsor: Your $500 gift will sponsor 10 families for the party and help us to provide services to them during the coming year.
Family Sponsor: Your $100 gift will sponsor 2 families for the party and help us to provide services to them during the coming year.
Supporter: Your $50 will be used where it is most needed to support the Holiday Party and to provide services to the families during the coming year.
P.S. Won’t you please take a moment now to make your tax-deductible donation via PayPal or by sending your check to our offices at 261 E. Colorado Blvd., Ste. 217, Pasadena, CA, 91101? Your contribution will also be a present to yourself when you experience the great joy of what it means to help others who are less fortunate, the true meaning of this special time of year.
I am very sorry to share with our supporters the news that we lost one of our valued staff members, Eduardo “Eddie” Estrada, over the December Holidays. Eddie was the Peer Navigator for Project imPACT, our reentry employment program located at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. The Peer Navigator is the “glue” between clients, potential clients, and the program. The Peer Navigator recruits new clients for the program and develops relationships with existing clients so they remain involved and meet their employment goals.
Eddie was so good at this. He cared about people very much and that is the one quality the position has to have when hired. It is difficult to train someone to care about others. I don’t know much about Eddie’s prior life other than he ended him up in prison at some point in time. What I wanted to know about him in the job interview was how he presented himself, how he spoke about the duties of the position, and whether I could sense from him a passion for the work. I quickly discovered that the answers were yes – yes – and yes.
Eddie had several tattoos, including one large one on the top of his head. I had never hired anyone with so many visible tattoos but it only took me about 30 seconds to get beyond that. The quality of him as a person, his obvious compassion, and his intellect won me over quite readily. I last saw him at our Holiday Staff Party on December 21. I asked what he wanted from his “Secret Santa” and he responded “a gift card from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.” “For your girlfriend or partner?” I asked. “No,” he responded, “for me.” I like the Teakwood fragrance . . . the body wash, the spray, and the cologne.” I chuckled to myself, thinking “This is not the response I thought I would get from this former gang member, tatted-up, rather large individual.” But, then I remembered one of the first lessons I got at Friends Outside, which was not to judge a book by its cover. Some of the finest persons I have met in my life are ex-prisoners. And, Eddie is on my short list.
Thank you for your support over the past year. I am pleased to present our new Annual Report. I hope you will take time to review it, see the smiling faces of those who are involved in our Mission and read the success stories about a few of the many, many persons whose lives were touched by our programs. I also call your attention to our “goodbye” and “so long” to stalwart volunteers Kathy Snow and Grethen Chiari Goette. And, finally, I hope you will take note of our cost effective operations (page 5 of the report). According to our most recent 990 Federal tax filing, 84% of the funds we received went directly to provide services to the families we assist. We are very proud of this statistic as it speaks to our efforts to use the funds we receive in direct support of the clients we serve.
With gratitude for your on-going support of our Mission and best wishes for 2019,
Join us for Fatherhood Against the Odds Summit, on September 28th at Los Angeles Trade Tech College. This summit is held for service providers, government agencies, elected officials, reentry fathers, and interested community members to focus on the need to engage incarcerated and formerly incarcerated fathers in their children’s lives. You’ll learn first-hand perspectives, current trends and the best practices for working with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated fathers.
Friends Outside in Los Angeles County’s Dads Back! Academy (DB!A) supports men coming out of prison to reunify with and be fathers to their children. The program is located in Watts and serves south Los Angeles. The program includes classes in fatherhood, healthy relationships, and employment, using “evidence-based” curricula.
One father we served is 35-years with a five-year-old son. We will call him Luis. Luis had been incarcerated for five years and thus was separated from his son for virtually all of his son’s life. Luis’ primary goal for enrolling in DB!A was to reunify with his ex-wife and be involved in his child’s life.
Luis expressed a lot of anxiety about meeting with his ex-wife and reconnecting with his son. He said that he did not have a good relationship with his own father, who he did not meet until he was nine years old. His father was not affectionate with him and this affected him deeply.
Prior to his first meeting with his son, our staff encouraged him to call him on the phone and ask him about his interests and favorite cartoon characters. As it turns out, it is Spiderman! The staff pooled their money and bought a Spiderman coloring book and crayons for the father to give to his son at their first meeting which went very well. Both were very excited and expressed happiness at being in each other’s lives.
Luis is now employed. He and his ex-wife have a cordial relationship, spending time together as a family over meals. His ex-wife now trusts the father to spend time with his son alone. Recently, the father took his son on a fishing trip, just Luis and his boy, a major step in the process of helping families heal after incarceration.
“If you are looking for help, that place right there can help you” -Father, Dads Back! Academy
Another DB!A father who we will call Derrick had been incarcerated for six years. He described how he struggled with guilt because of being away from his family and missing a lot of significant events with his children. Derrick first heard about DB!A when he was living in a Work Release Program and another resident said to him, “If you are looking for help, that place right across the street can help you.”
Derrick walked across the street and told the staff that he wanted to rebuild his relationship with his family. He enrolled and quickly started learning things he wanted to know such as strategies to help him better manage his anger. He learned new communication skills to “better navigate my personal relationships.” He also appreciated the feeling of “community” that he gained while in the program.
Derrick told the staff that he currently has a good relationship with his children and is actively involved in their lives. He also stated that he will share some of the problem-solving and personal finance skills that he has learned through DB!A to help improve his children’s lives.
Through DB!A, Derrick was able to enroll in truck-driving school while working as an in-home caregiver. Says Derrick, “this is the first time an organization that is supposed to help people has truly helped me.”
On the road toward success: A story about hope, determination, and patience.
KC is 55 years old. He is a DB!A Alumni and works as a Facility Manager for his church. He is diligent, focused and soft-spoken. KC learned about FOLA during an orientation at a “halfway house” for state prisoners. His goals were to be present in the lives of his three children and to find employment.
KC says that when he was first released from prison he was angry and quiet. Having been in the solitary confinement for 18 years, KC did not trust anyone and his conversational skills were awkward. KC takes a pause and thinks about how he felt when he first was released, which he describes as having a jail mentality. He credits the DBA! Group Facilitator, Monique, for learning to be around people again and get out of his comfort zone. He jokingly says, “She forced me to participate by asking me so many questions!” KC stated he wished the Academy were longer because he received so many tools, especially about computer literacy and healthy relationships and says that he still uses those skills today, more than a year after he completed the program.
KC smiles when he shares that he’s been able to reunify with his three children. He has been able to establish a closer bond with his youngest son who lives in Ontario, CA through visits and frequent phone calls. And, he keeps in contact with his two daughters who live out-of-state through phone calls. KC said he has achieved his goals, which were to have a steady job and a relationship with his children, a relationship that was once broken as a result of the mistakes he made in his “former” life. He then shared how grateful he is for DB!A because now he lives his life with joy in his heart.