The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
|Event benefits offender re-entry program|
Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
Supplies in the community closet at the parole office in Rocky Mount are running low and officers are asking for the community’s help in staging a “Barter Bazaar” in hopes of replenishing their stock.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Probation and parole officers in Franklin County are teaming up with local organizations to sponsor a "Barter Bazaar" Saturday, May 31 at Redwood United Methodist Church from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The bazaar is a "yard sale that requires no money," said Officer Sherri Perez.
Community members and residents are asked to donate items from a list of supplies needed to help offenders obtain successful re-entry into society once they have completed their sentences.
In return, donors will receive points to exchange for items in the yard sale.
"Our community closet is very low and our food supply is just about depleted," said Perez.
The probation office's community closet contains personal hygiene, household and non-perishable food items that are distributed to offenders once they are released from jail or prison.
"Some of these people don't even have soap to bathe, food to eat or clothing to wear to a job interview," said Perez. "Sometimes, a few diapers for their children help a lot. We don't want to see anyone resort to re-offending just because they don't have the essential items needed to survive."
Virginia Cares, Goodwill Industries, Franklin County Department of Social Services and Piedmont Community Services are also taking part in the event and are asking for donations of clothing, shoes, furniture and any other new or gently-used item that can be used in the yard sale.
"It's going to take a lot of interest and help from the public to make this event successful," said Perez.
At least eight out of 10 people have either been to jail or prison themselves, or know someone who has, according to Heather Niblett, caseworker for Virginia Cares.
"After serving their time, many are left to make do on their own, from finding a place to stay, a job or even food and clothes," said Niblett. "If we can help them get a good start once they are released, the chances of them committing crimes in the future drastically go down."
Virginia Cares is part of STEP Inc. and helps offenders in Virginia with successful re-entry.
"We can help them with everything from obtaining a birth certificate to learning job interview skills," said Niblett. " We don't want to see returning citizens fall through the cracks."
Some of the items on the probation office's wish list include toiletries, feminine products, razors, toilet paper, diapers, laundry detergent and non-perishable food items.
"Anything that you would consider things a person would need to live and get a job," said Perez.
Local businesses are also invited and encouraged to donate items to be used as door prizes at the bazaar.
Goodwill in Rocky Mount also works with the probation and parole officers by offering a voucher system.
"We accept donations of anything that the Goodwill would normally take," said Perez.
Any items donated to the parole office by the community is taken to Goodwill. Goodwill, in turn, gives vouchers to the parole officers, which they can give to any offender in need. Each voucher is worth three shirts, three pairs of pants and one pair of shoes.
"We are really fortunate that Goodwill has partnered with us," said Perez. "Basically, offenders get out of prison with nothing but what they were wearing when they went in. With this effort, they are able to go straight to Goodwill and get started with a few items of clothing."
According to statistics on the Virginia Department of Corrections' website, the average state prison sentence is 45 months long in Virginia, and over 90 percent of offenders are eventually released back into local communities. Only 10 percent of incarcerated offenders will spend their lives in prison.
According to Perez, there are over 300 people in Franklin County on probation or serving sentences.
"We currently serve around 25 offenders on an ongoing basis," said Perez.
Anyone with items to donate for use in the yard sale, community closet or door prizes should call (540) 489-8050 or (540) 483-5142 ext. 3023 to schedule a pick up.
Monetary donations are also welcome and can be sent to STEP Inc., P.O. Box 2015, Rocky Mount, Va. 24151. Make checks payable to STEP and reference "District 37 Re-entry account" in the memo section of the check.