By Christie Bartee and Lisa Spencer, POP Sponsors
There is a quiet miracle taking place at California State Prison, Solano, in Vacaville. The Prisoners’ Outreach Program (POP) raised $26,000 during a recent food sale campaign for two very worthy, non-profit charities.
The Leaven Project, helping transform the toughest high-crime neighborhoods by helping mothers and children, received $15,000. Sweet Dreams, an organization committed to giving terminally ill children the bedroom of their dreams, received over $11,000.
As miraculous as this all is, it is not the quiet miracle. The quiet miracle is actually the POP program stretching its influence beyond the confines of the prison and making a positive impact on the surrounding communities.
During the check presentation from POP member inmate Angel Aguirre, an extremely emotional presentation of an untitled poem was read. The poem resonated with dignitaries and guests. Those present included Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine, Vacaville Police Department Chief Captain Ian Schmutzler, Leaven Project administrators Daniel Lindsey and Mark Lillis, Sweet Dreams Founder Jenifer Donchenko and Sweet Dreams board member Jessica Couch.
Aguirre’s rendition of the poem prompted Leaven Project’s Mark Lillis to request a copy for engraving on a plaque which will be displayed on their new facility under construction in Vacaville.
After following up with Jennifer from Sweet Dreams to see how the progress was going with the intended projects for the donation, she informed me that the recipients were two 4-year-old boys, Austin and Toben, who are battling cancer. The children met in the Children’s Hospital and became friends. Austin received an airplane-and-superhero theme while Toben received a car theme room.
This wasn’t the first event for POP. The men and women of the Nurturing Project, a charity which formerly received a $12,000 donation from POP, were so moved by the compassion and integrity of the POP members, they nominated POP for the Championship for Children Award.
POP Sponsors Christie Bartee and Lisa Spencer were asked to attend the awards ceremony, during which POP received the award. The event organizers visited CSP-Solano and presented individual certificates to each POP member and re-created the original night’s formalities of the award presentation so that the POP members who were unable to attend could experience the event in person. Afterward, POP members posed for a picture with their friends from the Nurturing Project, the Championship for Children event organizers and CSP-Solano staff members Tanya Parker-Mashburn, Bartee and Spencer.
The quiet miracle continues and the men of the Prisoners’ Outreach Program are partnering with new community programs in order to reduce crime, prevent the victimization of innocent people, and to honor their own victims in heartfelt ways.