Archive for the ‘Testimonials’ Category

The following was written by PEP Class 22 graduate, Barry M. 


PEP Graduate, Barry M.

PEP Graduate, Barry M.

I have spent most of my adult life incarcerated.

For most of this time, I thought I was just a bad person. I thought “I was born this way and there is nothing that I can do about it. I will spend the rest of my life in and out of prison.”

But when PEP supporters like you met me in prison earlier this year, they brought me a very different message. They told me: “You have value.”

By spending a day in prison with total strangers, people like you convinced me that I was not a bad person … I had just been making bad choices. They taught me that, if I made a sincere commitment to myself, I could change.

PEP supporters like you taught me that my past did not have to dictate my future.

This all started when I was sitting in my cell on the Coffield Unit in East Texas. That morning, I received a postcard inviting me to apply to PEP. I asked the others on my cellblock about PEP. They told me not to bother applying because I would never get in.

To be honest, I believed them. But I also knew that it was going to be hard to gain employment with a felony on my record. So, I loved the idea of starting my own business.

But then I met PEP’s recruiter, Marcus Hill. He had served our country in the Army and was now a successful entrepreneur. But I was shocked when I learned that, in between those things, he had spent time in prison. Just like me.

Marcus told me that PEP was much more than a business program. He told me that if I was just applying because I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I would not be accepted. But if I was applying because I needed to change – because I was desperate for a change and willing to go to any length to get it – that I had a chance.

Thankfully, I gave myself that chance.

From the moment that I walked into PEP, my life has not been the same. It feels like I’m in a dream, except I know it’s for real. Although PEP is very challenging, the rewards are greater than anything I could have possibly imagined back in that cell in Coffield.

You truly changed the lives of men like me
by supporting PEP.

The business lessons that you offered us were exceptional. And I have to admit, I am pretty proud of the business plan that I put together! But honestly, what impacted me the most was PEP’s focus on character development.

By guiding me through these programs, people like you helped me to change my thought process. From the thoughts that I think to the words that I speak, you have cleaned me from the inside out.

When I look in the mirror now, I like the man who is looking back. That is something that I could not say for a very, very long time. Thank you for giving me that gift.

To repay you, I am committed to changing the lives of others through my story. But I cannot do it without PEP, and PEP cannot exist without your support. I hope that you will consider donating $22 in honor of Class 22, which graduates this Christmas.

Your gifts matter. They make a difference to men like me, to our families, and to our community. Please go online to www.PEP.org to donate today.

​With gratitude,

Barry M.
Class “Transcendent” 22

p.s. ​The PEP Board of Directors has committed $190,000 in matching funds for every new donation before 12/31/2014! That means that a gift of $22 becomes $44 – enough to sponsor a month of bus passes for men looking for work after release from prison!

Better still … if you can make a monthly commitment, the board will match your commitment $2-to-1 based on the annual value of your gift. That means that committing $10 per month will secure $240 in matching funds for PEP before the end 2014. If you are interested, please email Charles Hearne at CHearne@PEP.org. Thank you for any commitment you can make!

The following was written by PEP Class 18 graduate, John C. 


john c

PEP Class 18 Graduate, John C.

I thank God for putting PEP in my life. I can honestly say that without PEP I would certainly be lost. The program really taught me how to seize the moment, instilling confidence within me. Because of PEP, I know now that I can succeed and that my goals and dreams are attainable.

A great man within PEP once told me that a man without a plan ultimately plans to fail. He let me know that every great business man knows the value of his family, and he is always aware of who is “riding on his bus”.

The invaluable training given to me by PEP on the inside, although mentally straining and severely intense, prepared me for the obstacles sure to come my way upon release. I learned that life is what you make of it. No one is dealt the same hand, and the only thing that matters in the end is how you play the hand you’ve been dealt.

Upon release I was faced with a GPS monitor, parole and probation. I also had two of the most important women in my life play the roles of surrogate parole and probation officers (I love you, Mom!). Along with two AA classes, PEP eSchool, a job, community service and two beautiful children that required much of my attention, there was no time to waste. Losing focus was never an option. But with all my PEP brothers and extended PEP family in my corner rooting me on, success was the only viable outcome. What a great feeling to know that I am not driving a rundown bus on spare tires. Instead, I am chauffeuring a world class charter bus and the passengers are all ready to help me drive if begin to fall asleep.

But I am glad to report that I am not asleep at the wheel. I recently graduated eSchool. I have also successfully completed my parole requirements and have been once and for all cut free from that GPS monitor! I attend AA meetings now, not because I have to, but because it is one of the many practices I believe I should carry on to ensure my continual success.

Honestly, if I can do it, anybody can. All it takes is a little faith in God and the support of amazing people, like those I have in my PEP family.

Thank you for the opportunity to share.

John C.
Class 18 Graduate

Class 20 graduate Mark L., a.k.a. "Sweet Homey the Clown"!

Class 20 graduate Mark L., a.k.a. “Sweet Homey the Clown”!

We have a very special “welcome home” post today!

Mark L. has been in prison since 10/1/1994 … and was released today. 20 years, 1 month, 13 days later.

This Class 20 graduate was actually granted parole earlier, but he **declined** it and opted to stay in prison. Why?

Because Mark had been chosen as one of 10 servant leaders (prior PEP graduates) to transfer to a new prison to help us launch a new program near Dallas, Texas. Mark “had a job to do and wanted to see it through to the end.” Read more about this here; Mark is also pictured below.

Thanks to Mark’s servant leadership, around 40 other inmates recently completed this new program in PEP. And today … after 7,349 days behind bars … Mark is free at last.

Welcome home, “Sweet Homey the Clown”!

PEP Graduate Servant Leaders at Estes Unit

Pictured with the other servant leaders who followed this call to open a new program, Mark L. is on the front row, bottom right,

 

Read similar testimonials from other graduates here.

charles and israel

What better day than today to celebrate transformation?

These two dapper young men are not only PEP graduates, they are now PEP staff members who are also going to college thanks to some generous donors … this photo was taken before they walked into an event to thank the people who paid for their scholarships.

Whatever you have done in your past, your future will be decided by what you do TODAY. Thank you to Charles H. and Israel E. for inspiring us to dream bigger, live bolder, work harder, and love deeper!

The following was written by PEP Class 8 graduate, Cristian H. 


cristian h

Cristiam H., PEP Class 8 Graduate

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven.
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…”

Hope came for me at a time in my life when death at a young age was normal for a kid from my neighborhood. A millionth second chance was presented to me, and it was time to make a decision, once and for all.

I was raised well by my parents, and they did the best they could to keep me on a path of righteousness. I rebelled due to a desire to fit in with my “friends”. I struggled with a deep sense of inadequacy and this only fueled my desire to belong. Sin caught my attention at an early age and kept me wanting more until the age of 21, when I found myself in the county jail with several felony assault charges. I called my family with apologies and good-byes.

I cried out loud with tears in Bexar County Jail, praying Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s, desperately hoping that God would hear me. He heard me and my tears went away. But I still had to pay for my crimes. I was sentenced to three concurrent two year sentences in TDC.

I entered PEP six months before the end of my sentence. After reviewing the PEP application, I knew it was ‘a God thing’. I joyfully signed up and was accepted. PEP has been in my life ever since. God has used PEP to build my character. I have been educated and equipped for success in all endeavors thru PEP. PEP is a refuge, a brotherhood and a lifelong relationship. My story is full of ups and downs pre- and post-PEP. But through it all, I am better, not bitter. Through it all, PEP is still there for me. And through it all, I will continue to move forward, focused on living a life filled with purpose. Without God and without PEP, who knows where I would be today.

Cristian H.
PEP Class 8

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Now is the time, today is the day of salvation.”

Read similar testimonials from other graduates here.

Pat O'Brien (Co-Founder of Rogers-O'Brien Construction)

Pat O’Brien (Co-Founder of Rogers-O’Brien Construction)

Pat O’Brien was at the top of his game when a strange letter arrived in his office.

He was the Chairman of the Board of Rogers-O’Brien, a leading general contractor in Texas that he co-founded with Steve Rogers in 1969. The firm was poised to deliver its highest amount of construction volume over the coming years, and Pat had recently transitioned into his Chairman role after decades as the company’s CEO. He now had the great pleasure of watching his son Preston and grandson Justin leading the company that he had built.

But as he sat in his office going through the mail, one invitation stood out: “Join me in prison.”

The letter was from a nonprofit called the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. It was an invitation for Pat to volunteer as a judge for a business plan competition… inside of a Texas prison. As an entrepreneur himself, Pat was intrigued by the concept. He soon met the staff and some of the organization’s inspiring graduates and eventually accepted their invitation to join them in prison in 2007.

How little he knew, that first trip would become a life sentence.

Pat was so impressed by what he saw at PEP that he joined the organization’s newly formed Dallas Advisory Board, whose quarterly meetings he began to host at his office. He continued to volunteer in prison, but he also began mentoring graduates who were released to Dallas after prison. And more importantly, he suggested that his HR team begin interviewing PEP graduates to work at the firm.

“At first, I was very skeptical,” said Ken Dunham, VP of Human Resources. “But when I had that first interview, I was immediately impressed and called one of our superintendents to tell him that he needed to meet this guy.”

That PEP graduate – Adam M. – nailed both interviews thanks to the coaching he received from PEP. He immediately impressed the superintendent, who went from being cautious about having a former felon on his team to demanding that Adam work on any crew that he supervised. Adam’s integrity, determination and commitment to excellence were hallmarks of Rogers-O’Brien; the superintendent wanted those qualities on his team.

Adam has since been promoted several times at Rogers-O’Brien. With the ongoing mentoring of his supervisor and men like Mr. Dunham and Mr. O’Brien, Adam has also started a family. He claims that his entire life has been transformed by the belief that Mr. O’Brien placed in PEP.

“I am grateful for the second chance that I have been given to prove myself,” Adam recently told a room full of 30+ potential employers gathered at the Royal Oaks Country Club.

PEP Graduates attending the event

PEP Graduates attending the event

Realizing that access to jobs plays a critical role in the transformation of formerly incarcerated men, Mr. Dunham and Mr. O’Brien co-hosted the gathering along with Keith Bird from Alcon, Steve Heussner from Mogul Wealth Strategies and Jack Sovern from Hunt Construction Group. These executives wanted to introduce their peers to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program and its graduates.

Adam spoke at the event along with several other PEP graduates. Their stories inspired the guests so much that several immediately offered to interview PEP graduates for jobs. One even offered to pay for additional training for PEP graduates to be able to join his firm. Within a month, a number of PEP graduates began working for firms represented at the event (including several of the graduates who spoke that day).

“Pat is a great example of how a donor can really make a tremendous impact on PEP in ways that go beyond financial support,” said Bert Smith, CEO of PEP. “He is a remarkable ambassador for us. His willingness to lend his name to our efforts gives us the credibility that we need to succeed in our mission.”

Earlier this year, Pat travelled to Houston to speak to a gathering of the Philanthropy Roundtable about his involvement in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. The event drew philanthropists who annually donate at least $50,000 to charitable causes, and Pat spoke to them about how their personal involvement can complement their financial investment in organizations.

“Getting involved with PEP is one of the greatest things that I have done in my life,” said Pat. “I have never seen a greater return on the time and money that I have invested in a nonprofit than what I have seen through PEP.”

PEP does not just change the lives of those who are incarcerated; we transform the hearts of our volunteers, the strength of our graduates’ employers, and the future of our entire community.

Learn more at www.PEP.org.

The following was written by an employer of a PEP graduate. Keith Berry is the General Manager – Dallas for Hazel’s Hot Shot. His email is reposted with his permission.


I wanted to take the time and let you know how pleased we are with Richard. Richard is doing a great job for us and exemplifies the type of individuals we want representing Hazels – and I’m sure you want representing PEP. You should be proud of the job Richard is doing and take pride in knowing PEP prepared Richard to enter back into society with the confidence he can and will succeed. Richard has taken grasp of the opportunity Hazel’s offered him and he has a bright future ahead of him with Hazel’s.

His professionalism, tenacity and determination to succeed is commendable – and he is the epitome of a model Hazel’s driver.

With the success we are experiencing with Richard – we are interested in locating the same type of individual (s) for our Houston office.

Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Regards,

Keith R. Berry
General Manager – Dallas
Hazels Hot Shot

www.hazelshotshot.com

The following was written by PEP Class 18 graduate, Devon S. 


Devon S.

Devon S.

“After my fifth time receiving a one year set off and being denied parole, I started to really wonder how many years I would serve on my 20-year sentence. Then one day soon after, I received a letter from one of my brothers. He told me I should look into a program that he graduated from called PEP. He said PEP gave him the skills and the knowledge necessary to start his own business. But most importantly, PEP helped him to change his destructive thinking patterns.

So I put in a request, by using what we called an “I-60,” to classification asking what I needed to do to be a part of this program.

About two weeks later, I was on the chain headed to pre-release at the Cleveland Unit! My second day there, I was approached by my future classmate Aaron B., and he asked me if I was here for the program. “What program”, I asked. When he told me PEP, I immediately knew God was working His mighty hand! Marcus and Pat allowed me to join the program, even though I still had 14 years left on my sentence. I haven’t looked back since.

After being released, I married the woman of my dreams, my first true love. I relocated from Austin to Houston to take up residence at a PEP transitional house, and within 35 days of my release, and with PEP’s assistance, I was employed! I went to school and obtained my commercial driver license (CDL), and after searching for months on my own for a position and coming up short, I was able to obtain employment through PEP’s vast network!

The month of September 2014 marks my first full year since being released from prison. Without God, my wife and of course PEP, none of this would be possible. Thank you, PEP!

By the way, the I-60 request I sent out to classification asking about the program finally caught up to me at the Cleveland Unit over a month after I started class. The response was ‘you have to be interviewed to be considered for the program’.

I still have it today!

Devon S.
Class 18 Graduate

Read similar testimonials from other graduates here.

The following was written by PEP Class 15 graduate, David F. David is also a loyal donor to PEP.


 

David F

David F.

“I’ve never been out of jail or prison for more than a year at a time. Praise God, I have now been a free man for three years and counting!

I have accomplished many things since my release, things the old me would have never thought were possible.

At the age of 40, I acquired my first credit card and I was able to finance a vehicle through my bank. I was able to do these things because of lessons I learned in PEP. They taught me how to establish credit, and as a result of that training, my credit score has gone up 150 points!

I am also a legitimate business man today. I have obtained my DBA and I now have a business account. My plan is to be open for business by the end of 2015.

I know PEP was sent into my life by God. They have shown me the kind of love and affection no one ever has. PEP gave me a ride to work for three months when I had no other means of transportation. They allowed me to borrow a vehicle to take my driving exam and purchased work clothes for me when I became employed. PEP was as committed to my success as I was.

I always have someone to talk to within the organization if I need counsel, or just need to share. They flew my mother and two sisters in from Orlando, Florida just to see me graduate. PEP donors even provided them with a rental car!

I would like to thank PEP for my transformation. Without them, I would not be where I am today.”

David F.
Class 15 Graduate

Read similar testimonials from other graduates here.

The following was written by PEP Class 13 graduate, Lance N.


lance nI thought doing my time in prison and getting my life in order when I came home would be something I could handle alone. Then PEP came into my life. When I arrived at PEP, I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into, much less what was in store for me. There was so much to study! So much homework, and there were tests, too. Then came the events where I met the executives and staff. I was blown away by all of the knowledge, love, and support that PEP offered me. I saw myself change so much as I finished my time in prison and grew with PEP.

When it was time to leave prison, I had no home to go to. PEP picked me up, took me to eat, gave me a re-entry gift, and took me home to a PEP transitional house. PEP helped me to acquire new glasses, to get my driver’s license, and provided me with bus passes. Before my incarceration, my work experience had been primarily white collar so I had a difficult time finding a job after my release. But PEP helped me get my first job. I continued to grow and to learn as I attended and graduated from eSchool. Thanks to PEP, I am now a very different person in many positive ways.

In thanks for everything PEP has done and continues to do, I give back with my time, and also my monthly donations as a PEP Partner. Looking back, I see that I couldn’t have successfully transitioned by myself. Thank you PEP… for everything.

Lance N.
PEP Class 13

Read similar testimonials from other graduates here.