Posts Tagged ‘volunteer testimonial’

Notes for Michael G

Notecards sent to this volunteer

The following was posted this morning by one of our volunteer executives, Michael J. Gilbert (founder of Street Level Apps):

I sit here this morning with tears in my eyes, humbled yet happy.

My normal routine is to gather my mail at the end of the day and read it first thing over breakfast. Normally I throw out the junk mail without even looking inside.

I opened a large envelope that seemed like junk mail, however this was hand addressed (note to marketers). Inside were thank you letters from students in the Prison Entrepreneur Program. These men are truly grateful that someone gives a damn, someone that took time out of their day not just to say ‘I care” but to guide them in the right direction; in life and business.

Some time ago I volunteered to help edit business plans and attend “Sales Pitch Day”, inside the prison at the Cleveland Correctional Center north of Houston., Texas.

It’s humbling to see the transformation of a man, especially one so drastic. You take a man and especially young men that have done nothing but spend their lives in and out of jails and prisons, that have never had any opportunities in his life, no guidance or a mentor and put him in the right situation, offer him an opportunity to better himself along with guidance and the real man emerges. It reminds me of Eddie Murphy in “Changing Places”.

“We offer a ‘mini MBA’ program within the Texas prison system that transforms inmates into entrepreneurs,” said Bert Smith, CEO of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP). Through the program, the inmates also develop complete business plans for a real venture that they can pursue after release.

I think all too often we become so immersed in our own lives we fail to realize there are people hurting but wanting help but we step right over them in our pursuit of own goals and aspirations.

The fact is, I thought I was the one that was going to ‘go down and teach these boys a thing or two.” What truly happen was my own transformation. I came home humbled and reminded that we are all in this together. I was also reminded of the vision that started over 10 years ago and one that is coming to fruition as I write this. (Stay tuned).

I can tell you I will not lie on my death bed wishing I had worked one more hour, or made one more dollar, or closed one more deal. Although I do love what I do I also will not lie on that bed with regrets. The second half of my life is dedicated to helping those that need our help the most. (Read Bob Buford’s “Half Time: From Success to Significance”)

Won’t you join me? Become a volunteer Or join another charity that benefits society as a whole. Get involved in the lives of others and your own problems will soon disappear. When we focus on others, that’s where true joy and happiness is found.

During PEP’s Business Plan Competition these inmates pitch their business plans to more than 50 “free world” executives, entrepreneurs and MBA students who attend PEP’s in-prison events.

Over 9 years, over 1,000 men have graduated from PEP. Over 95% continue to be contributing citizens of society. That’s the complete opposite of the national average of recidivism. PEP continues to carry on a great program as Baylor University has now Certified the PEP Program.

We just received this great story from an executive volunteer (note that names have been changed):

Last Saturday evening I was in The Woodlands and a young man kept looking at me… After a little while, he approached and asked me my name.

When I replied ‘Jane’, he said ‘Jane Smith?’

I said, ‘Yes, do we know each other?’

He said, ‘I was in PEP. I’ve been out now for 2 and a half years.’

I was astonished that he remembered me as I only attended two events and spoke with each person for a only a short period of time those days.

He asked if we could stay in touch, and we have communicated via LinkedIn and email.  He has shared pictures of his family, introduced me to his fiancée and talked about his job and the repair of his relationship with his children after he got out. (He has three. 🙂

As I have thought about it over the last few days, I realized what a significant impact I made just by being there, only one day in his class. For him to remember not only my face, but also my full name this many years after I visited, was nothing short of remarkable to me.

What you are offering to the inmates is amazing, but what you have also offered to the volunteers is just as meaningful…. A chance to make a difference in the lives of others.

Thank you for all you do, and thank God for PEP.

Britanie Olvera Austin TexasHaving engaged with PEP the first time in 2008, I find myself not only advocating PEP, but embracing the PEP wings and philosophy: “Changing the Future by Reconciling the Past”. This phrase has meaning and value far exceeding ink on paper. I am passionately involved with PEP because I see it not only giving second chances, but renewing families, re igniting “fatherhood”, but also changing hearts on both sides of the prison wall. I give to PEP my time; my money and I have had the pleasure of hiring PEP graduates into my business. The residual result is an infectious change that spreads into communities; extended families and businesses, resulting in the best ROI I have encountered.

You can look at the tax base return to the taxpayer on many levels, the numbers, hands down tell the successful story of PEP and what it’s accomplishing, but when you look at the changed lives, saved souls and mended hearts, you see the true success of PEP. This unquestionably has a reverberating and lasting effect on our local and regional community, of which the full residual effect, monetarily and socially are difficult to capture in a financial statement. I have seen nothing else like it and I’m convinced it is a revolution. AMAZING WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE EMPOWER PEOPLE


Britanie Olvera
Building Team Solutions Inc
B.I.T Construction Services Inc

“Building teams and changing lives one staffing at a time”

RKI letter from Tom Rawson.pngEvery year, thousands of people hear about PEP for the first time. Many are intrigued by the story, but are understandable hesitant about how they can get involved — after all, most of us spend more time trying to stay OUT of prison than finding a way to get in!

Here is a great letter from long-time PEP volunteer, donor and friend Tom Rawson. Tom is the CEO of RKI, Inc and he offers this letter for people who are unsure about whether or not they want to come to prison:

To potential executive volunteers:

I am a regular volunteer at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in Cleveland, Texas.

PEP is a unique program that finds men in the prison system who are totally committed to changing their lives for the better, and gives them the tools (partly through the use of volunteers as examples) that they need to be successful in their transformation. The men go through an intensive MBA type training, and design a business plan for themselves to deploy, when they get out of prison.

This program works.

Ask any staff member of PEP for the latest amazing statistics.

Why volunteer? I’m very busy running my own business, and I don’t need things to keep myself occupied, but I am a regular participant at PEP volunteer opportunities.

Accepting the challenging to interact with these guys as they pull themselves up, and begin to build a positive future for themselves and their families, is a very highly stimulating and uplifting experience. It is one of the few things in life that you really do have to participate in to understand.

PEP changes lives for the better, both for the volunteers, and for the men participating. I urge you to treat yourself to an amazing experience, and at the same time help someone to have a chance to make themselves a peaceful and meaningful life.

I have never met anyone who wished that they hadn’t participated.


Tom Rawson
RKI, Inc