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Celebrate #GivingTuesday — Donate Today

We all know Thanksgiving — a day of thanks. And we all know Black Friday — a day of getting deals. So what’s Giving Tuesday?

A day of giving back.

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Truth Be Told is participating in #GivingTuesday for the second year, and we’re so excited to join thousands of nonprofit organizations in a global movement that promotes donating to causes that speak to us — and that make the communities we live in a better place.

Our goal is to raise $10,000. The money we raise will support the work we are currently doing, and help support our growth in 2016.

In the last two years, we have grown from providing services in three facilities to five, with a sixth facility planned for the New Year. Growing in such an impactful way has only been possible thanks to the support of donors like you, and the incredible dedication of our vigilant volunteers.

As an organization, expansion stretches our comfort zone. But that’s also something we ask of the brave women we serve. We ask them to step into a place of vulnerability and courage, and to dig deep, uncovering the story that has brought them to the place that they now sit. The women who sign up for our classes step over the threshold of the unknown, and into a new way of life.

We, too, want to step over the threshold of “what’s next,” and discover the beauty that waits on the other side. But we need your help to get there.

Donate today to support our Giving Tuesday campaign. Thank you in advance for your support. Without you, none of this would be possible.

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Thank You for Empowering More Voices

In 2014 you helped us serve women in four prisons and our county jail.  Our semester-long prison programs graduated 152 women.  More than 200 women participated in jail classes.  Hundreds more attended holiday performances of God in Human Form and monthly Exploring Creativity Workshops. We were able to employ an executive director; revamp our website; upgrade our database and case management software; and engage in a program evaluation.  We received four grants and were inspired by your support during Amply Austin, our 2014 Pledge Drive and #GivingTuesday.

Sara Hickman, Sarah Alarcon, Greg Downing, Lynn Kindler, & Simcha Reader’s Group lifted eighty-six hearts with song, slam poetry, laughter, and story telling at the
GEO Lockhart Facility 14th annual God in Human Form Performance.

 

 

Dara Musick graduated with honors from ACC and as the recipient of the Presidential Student Achievement Award, gave an inspiring speech at commencement.  Dara continues to give back by sharing her story behind bars, bringing hope to women who have walked her walk. Read more about Dara.

 

 

 

Conspirare & Ruthie Foster lifted hearts and released healing tears in a most moving performance at the Travis County Correctional Facility.  Ninety women along with volunteers and staff, including Sheriff Hamilton, were inspired and left with glistening cheeks and humbled hearts.

 

 

To hear more empowered voices of the women we serve,
listen to Teri and Donna.

Please remember Truth Be Told as you consider your end of giving.

Listen to the Voice of Teri!

On our Donor Recognition page, we list donations in three categories called The Voices of Truth. The categories are named for women who were meaningful to the early development of Truth Be Told. The Voice of Teri category designates donors who have contributed $1,000–$4,999 in a year.

Why Teri? She was in the very first Talk To Me class and is still talking!

In February 2000, Nathalie Sorrell didn’t know what to expect when she created the posters announcing the new class in the GEO Lockhart prison. She certainly didn’t anticipate that 14 years later Truth Be Told would still be talking to Teri, a reluctant participant.

Carol Waid attended that class as a facilitator-in-training. In this audio recording, Carol asks Teri about that first class, and Teri credits divine intervention for getting her there. She didn’t like going to classes and was avoiding this one when something made her turn around in the hallway and walk towards it. She remembers an attraction to the name “Truth Be Told.” She didn’t like the first few classes, but something kept bringing her back. She didn’t want to tell her story or even remember her painful past, but hearing Carol’s story inspired her to take baby steps into the exercises.

Listen to Teri describe how the doors opened. 

Since being released, Teri has married. She is still clean and sober and feels more alive than ever. Teri has been at every fundraiser that featured graduates and never misses an opportunity to share the Truth Be Told story.

Keep on talking, Teri. We love to hear your voice!

For 2013, the Voice of Teri donors are:

  • Susan deGraffenried
  • Gathering Place Worship Center
  • Louise Morse
  • Red Bird Foundation
  • Charles and Betti Saunders Foundation (managed by Austin Community Foundation)
  • Donna Snyder
  • Diana Stangl

Below, a few of the Voice of Teri donors explain what prompted their support:

Paula D’Arcy is the president and founder of Red Bird Foundation as well as an author and speaker whose work seeks to further inner and worldwide peace.

Unless you’ve worked or volunteered in a prison, there aren’t words to capture the power and importance of the work done by Truth Be Told. Imagine women, most of whom have never had much of a chance in life, little education, separated from their children, low self-esteem, addictions, very low on hope…and then imagine a sincere transformation in their lives because of a program that delivers not only truth, but the means and encouragement to make different choices.

Imagine healing, education about what a woman can be (and how she can comport herself and care for her own body and for her children), the redemptive power of learning to tell your story — not as a victim, but as a radiant woman — beginning to believe that you have a meaningful place in this world because you’ve finally experienced someone believing in you — these are huge gifts anywhere, but inside a prison they are rare.

The work is raw, it is emotional, it is exhausting, and month after month the teachers show up and give everything they’ve got. It is the ultimate reaching a hand back into the dark to help someone else. Support for this work reaches far beyond the women fortunate enough to take these classes. Heart by heart, this is how we’ll all awaken.

Donna Snyder is retired from a career as an attorney, state government executive, and corporate officer. She serves on the Truth Be Told Board and as a certified Talk To Me facilitator in the GEO Lockhart prison.

It is a privilege and a gift to be with these women and witness the transformations which occur while they are in our classes. They are like new plants pushing through the dirt, opening to the sunlight and exploding with their unique gifts and different ways of being beautiful. Yes, they have often hurt others. However, in almost every case, their life stories are of sexual and/or physical abuse, usually at a very young age and usually by a trusted relative. In every story, they suffered their trauma in tortured silence, either because they were too afraid to speak or their voices were resolutely shut down. They deserve a chance to be heard. They deserve a chance to heal. Truth Be Told gives them a toolbox!

Louise Morse is a former member of the Truth Be Told Board.

After learning all I could about Truth Be Told, how it was started and grew into a highly successful program by changing the lives of women in prison and after prison, it became more important to me to be involved with the program than any other nonprofit project I had ever worked with. It was easy for me to redirect some of my funds to this program which had previously gone to other causes. Not only easy, but I was eager to do so as well as donate time to serving on their Board of Directors. I wholeheartedly and unequivocally support this program and feel grateful that I have finally found one that I absolutely must and will continue to care about in the future.

Watch your mailbox or inbox for our Donor and Volunteer Drive letter or go online to help us reach our $25,000 goal for the campaign.

Restorative Justice Workshop and Amazon Smiles

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Amazon Smiles
Amazon just started a new charitable giving program. If you buy an eligible product at AmazonSmile, 0.5% of the cost is donated to an organization of your choice. Truth Be Told is a registered organization, so please choose us when you make a purchase. There is no additional cost to you. To shop at AmazonSmile simply start your regular Amazon shopping at smile.amazon.com.

 

Restorative Justice
Please join the Truth Be Told community for a one-day Restorative Justice Workshop we organized. By connecting with experts in the field, we have learned that many components of our programs promote restorative justice even though that isn’t the stated objective. Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the community involved. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility and to repair the harm they’ve done. This approach views crime and other conflicts as violations of people and interpersonal relationships that create obligations and liabilities and have a lasting impact on entire communities.

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Restorative justice practices heal relationships and build communities through restorative dialogues and the creation of mutually beneficial solutions. Nationally and internationally, restorative justice initiatives are addressing issues in a variety of settings such as student misconduct in schools and conflicts in communities.
The workshop will be led by Eric Butler from Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) and is co-sponsored by Sherwynn Patton of Life Anew.

The RJOY website describes the questions restorative justice asks:
     1. Who was harmed?
     2. What are the needs and responsibilities of all affected?
     3. How do all affected parties together address needs and repair harm?

An emerging approach to justice rooted in indigenous cultures, restorative justice is reparative, inclusive, and balanced. It emphasizes:
     1. Repairing harm
     2. Inviting all affected to dialogue together to figure out how to do so
     3. Giving equal attention to community safety, victim’s needs, and offender accountability and growth

For more background on this fast-growing approach to wrongdoing that is proving effective visit the UT Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue.

Truth Be Told facilitators asked for a workshop to learn how to be more intentional about promoting restorative justice principles. Please join us for this unique experience.

WHAT: Restorative Justice Workshop

WHEN: Saturday, July 26th, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

WHERE: Booker T. Washington Terraces, Community Meeting Hall, at 905 Bedford Street, Austin, TX 78702. Map

REGISTRATION: To register contact Ginger McGilvray at ginger.mcgilvray@gmail.com or 512-740-1307and confirm there is still room.

FEE: $75 for the day. Please make checks payable to “Life Anew” and mail before July 20th to: Ginger McGilvray, 117 El Paso Street, Austin, TX 78704. If needed, you may pay at the door, but we would like to get most payments in ahead of time.

LUNCH: A community lunch is included with registration. If you have dietary restrictions or special needs, please let Ginger know.

WHAT TO WEAR: Please dress very casually. This day is meant to be a comfortable experience for us all.

Truth Be Told Spring Graduations and Gone For Good

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By Kathleen Littlepage, Truth Be Told Interim Executive Director

There is no better way to learn more about Truth Be Told and our programs than attending a graduation.

Right now, we are filling spaces in the last two spring graduations: Talk To Me and Discovery at Hilltop Unit in Gatesville is May 16, and Discovery at GEO Lockhart Unit is May 23. We need about two weeks to process the prison paperwork for the attendees, so please let us know as soon as possible that you want to attend. For more information, contact Carol Waid at carol (at) truth-be-told.org or (512) 292-6200.

On Friday April 4, a group of about 20 from Austin met up at Kreuz Market in Lockhart, but it wasn’t all about the barbecue. After lunch and some visiting, Katie Ford, a Truth Be Told facilitator, prepared us for the short trip we were about to make to the GEO Lockhart Unit for a graduation. It was routine for the TBT facilitators but a completely new experience for a journalism graduate student, a school counselor, a psychiatric nurse, a stay-at-home mom, a former DPS officer, a UT professor, and the rest of the assembled. We listened carefully as Katie described how we would be processed into the prison and what the event would be like.

The three spring Talk To Me classes were ready to graduate 31 women. They had all spent eight weeks learning how to tell their life stories— not the stories of their convictions but the larger stories of how they became who they are.

The women had all chosen one of the three Talk To Me formats, speaking, writing, or movement. Many of the women had never participated in a graduation, although a few had some higher education, but the occasion marked completion of an intense personal journey of discovery for all. We were there to be respectful listeners to enlarge the safe communities they had built in class.

In the auditorium, the guests and graduates mingled and sat together while waiting for the ceremony to begin. This was my third graduation, but it had been several years since the last one. Ginger McGilvray’s movement class began with a group performance to a rendition of Motherless Child, and I remembered how deep these women go and that I was about to go on that journey with them. Three women from the speaking class and three from the writing class told their stories. I heard about a father who was a drug dealer, a mother who left, a brother who took her innocence, a girl who knew she was pretty, a child who died mysteriously, bad choices, and struggles with addiction. Pain, loss, mistakes, hopes, and redemption all tumbled out together. When Donna Snyder began calling the names of her 12 students in the speaking class, I was so thankful and ready for the upbeat mood of the women celebrating their accomplishments. After some guests chose to share their thoughts in the closing circle, we ended with laughter as we each said our name, a one word feeling, and a gesture that the entire group then repeated.

I agreed with the guest who said, “I am comforted to know that some of the people that we incarcerate have access to moments that will make a difference in their lives.” And I wanted to add, “…and make a difference in our lives.”

Kay Rosenkranz, who was released from prison in 2013, wrote about her experience with three Truth Be Told classes, “Graduation day was so special for me. I became an emotional basket case that day too. I was so surprised to see that people from the ‘free world’ were inspired to tears by what we did that day and the stories we shared. More surprising was learning how many other women had stories to tell and how those stories impacted their lives. I found hope in learning I had so much in common with these women. I remember thinking that if only we could harness this goodwill, this human commonality, and this energy, what a world we could then create!”

Gone For Good Supports Truth Be Told

On April 1, Gone For Good presented Truth Be Told with a $2,500 grant award at a lovely luncheon at Chez Nous. Kathleen Littlepage and Carol Waid were there to accept the check from the three founders, Retta Van Auken, Gail Miller, and Sandy Rotman. IMG_3049

Gone For Good is a nonprofit with a simple but clever model to help other nonprofits. Individuals donate items of value that they no longer want. Gone for Good sells the items and donates the proceeds, less a handling fee, to the charity chosen by the individual, who in turn gets a tax deduction. Gone For Good has a booth at the Antique Marketplace, and they sell items online. They also organize and manage estate sales.

Gone For Good was started three years ago by these three Austin women and has made over $150,000 in cash and in-kind donations. For the first time this year, Gone For Good used some accumulated funds to award grants to five small local nonprofits, and Truth Be Told is fortunate to be in that group. We are grateful to Gone For Good for their hard work and generosity and for choosing to support Truth Be Told.

Please keep Gone For Good in mind as new way to support Truth Be Told next time you want to give some items a new home. We love playing a part in their mission to sell worldly treasures to do a world of good.

I didn’t know fundraising could be fun and easy

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Kathleen Littlepage shares her story.

This is the second year that “I Live Here, I Give Here” has sponsored Amplify Austin, a 24-hour online fundraising event designed for small nonprofits to reach donors through their social networks. The idea is that the people closest to an organization, those who are passionate about the mission, are the ones who can spread the word most effectively. This crowd-sourcing model relies on a whole lot of people making small donations. I was helping Truth Be Told (TBT) with some administrative work, including setting up the page for Amplify Austin. Once that was done, I tested one of the site functions and created my own fundraising page for TBTAmplify Austin_UFCU_Logo

It took about a half an hour to construct my page, write my own message, and upload some photos. Carol Waid gave me the link to our brand new video. Of course, no one knows you have a fundraiser going unless you tell them, so I shared the link on my Facebook page and went to make a cup of tea. When I came back to the computer, I was almost to my $300 goal. My brother in Florida who is retired gave $100, my sister in California made a donation, and then my ailing friend who lives a quiet life in the hill country did. My page had been up for less than an hour! I felt so good that they made donations right after seeing the post—no hesitation there. I knew it was because Truth be Told is such a great organization, but I also felt that it was because they love me, believe in me, and want to support me. I was raising money and feeling good! I had caught the bug. I needed a higher goal. I was hooked on seeing that number go up and started strategizing.

I know lots of people who aren’t on Facebook and even those who are can miss a posting, so I decided to send the fundraiser link in an email. I crafted a message about why working with incarcerated women should be important to everyone. It was different from what I usually say about how this work tugs at my heart. I wanted people to understand that it affects all of us when incarcerated women turn their lives around and contribute to their communities. I wasn’t sure how many people I could reach until I started scanning my Contacts for names to add to the blind copy line. Have you looked at your Contacts lately? I’m fortunate to have a group email for my high school friends, college friends, and my extended family that mostly live on the east coast.
Once again, I got quick generous donations. I was surprised that the people who responded weren’t necessarily the ones I communicate with the most. My personal bonus was the emails some sent encouraging me to keep up the good work. So here I am four days after I created my own fundraising page on Amplify Austin and I have donations of about $700. Not all of them show in my total yet because some are scheduled for March 20, when the 24-hour event begins.

If you are a friend of Truth Be Told, please consider setting up a personal fundraising page.

Our goal is $10,000. If we had 33 pages that raised $300 each, we would be there! Amplify has a $5,000 prize for the organization with the most personal fundraising pages. We could be in the running for that.

Get started here: https://amplifyatx.ilivehereigivehere.org/content/getInvolved.

Consider featuring our new video to tell the story by adding this link: http://youtu.be/pAJNmdniqEs.

If we all title our pages “Friend of Truth Be Told,” we will be listed together. Carol Waid is our site administrator and can help you. Call her at 512-292-6200 or email: carol@truth-be-told.org.

We have been asking people involved with Truth Be Told why they support the organization. Here are some of the responses:

 
“You ask why I give? I give to see lives transformed. I heard Nathalie Sorrell’s story of why she felt compelled to work with women in prison. I thought, “Good for Nathalie!” A few months later Nathalie invited me to attend a graduation ceremony for Truth Be Told students in the Lockhart prison. I received a firsthand experience of the powerful work she and Carol Waid created. Although I did not feel compelled to actually work in the prison, I did feel moved to get involved. What moved me during that visit were the stories the women told. Each woman told a story about how her life had been transformed by her work with the Truth Be Told curriculum. I wanted to be a part of something that transformed lives. My involvement is the giving of my financial resources. I want to see that as many women as possible will have access to Truth Be Told.” Bobby Miser, Rogers Benefit Group and former TBT Board Member

“I support TBT because I have witnessed the healing of women who were broken. I have seen for myself the transformational power of creating a community of respectful listeners as each one tells her story. I believe that a woman transformed can transform her family. I have seen TBT nurture and support this transformation.” Jim Walsh, Walsh, Anderson Law Firm, “Law Dawg”

 
“Being part of Truth Be Told is like magic, electricity, freedom, and trickle-down, trickle-up love, with some sobriety and maturity thrown in. I’ve been a board member and now serve as one of the blog’s volunteer editors. I continue to volunteer with TBT because it makes a real difference in real people’s lives: in the lives of the women it serves, their families and communities, and donors and volunteers.” MaryAnn Reynolds, MS, LMT, NCTMB, The Well

“After learning all I could about Truth Be Told, how it was started and grew into a highly successful program by changing the lives of women in prison, it became more important to me to be involved with the program than any other nonprofit project I had ever worked with. It was easy for me to redirect some of my funds to this program. Not only easy, but I was eager to do so as well as donate time to serving on their Board of Directors. I wholeheartedly and unequivocally support this program, and feel grateful that I have finally found one that I absolutely must and will continue to care about in the future.” Louise Morse, former TBT Board Member

Lee Thorsness, board vice chair, shares what makes Truth Be Told so special

My name is Lee Thorsness, and I am the Vice Chair for the Truth Be Told board. Someone asked me how I got involved with Truth Be Told, and I reflected back to when this all started for me.

In 2011 Greenlights hosted a nonprofit summit at the Bob Bullock Museum where Truth Be Told was a participant. I had never heard of Truth Be Told before, but after an hour of walking around and talking to people at the summit, I returned to the Truth Be Told booth for the third time and decided this was where I needed to be. I watched their informational and insightful video several times and realized what it was about this organization that touched my heart — it was children left behind when a parent goes to prison.

What happens to the children when a mother goes to prison? Who takes care of them?

Well, at least that is how it started. Being a person who likes to know the facts and numbers, I started doing some research. Here is what I found:

  • Over 780,950 Texas residents are under criminal justice supervision; this is almost 200,000 more people than the entire population of Washington, DC.
  • The number of women incarcerated in Texas prisons is 14,560. The prison population of Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland combined is 10,800.
  • Two-thirds of women prisoners have children under the age of 18.
  • Fifty-four percent of mothers in state prisons have had no personal visits with their children since their incarceration.
  • The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 authorizes the termination of parental rights once a child has been in foster care for 15 or more months in a 22-month period. Most sentences in prison exceed 15 months.
  • Forty-four percent of the women in prison do not have a high school diploma.
  • The number of Texas women subject to a  lifetime ban from food stamps because of drug convictions: 4,700.

When someone is sentenced to prison, the emotional turmoil is difficult for everyone to handle. Perhaps the heaviest burden is on the unintended victim, the children. With over 7.3 million children with at least one parent in jail or prison, about 70 percent of these children are doomed to follow the same path. Children of incarcerated parents are five times more likely to commit crimes. Kids have a very difficult time coping with a parent’s absence.

As I researched Truth Be Told, I found that the real purpose of the program  was teaching communication skills through writing, speaking, and the arts — self-awareness, growth, and trust, really.

There is no better way to improve the lives of the children than by helping the parents. I am the mother of three boys, and I know how the pressure of the day can impact you and your children. Communication skills are key to rebuilding relationships with children. It can be a long process, but if TBT offers the tools, there is a chance for success. Everyone deserves a second chance.

The Truth Be Told board has collected some statistics about the programs and what we have accomplished with the incarcerated women. Just fewer than 1,000 women have graduated from our 8 -14 week prison programs between 2000 and 2012, and we have served hundreds others through our jail and Exploring Creativity programs.

In 2006, 48.8 percent of citizens re-entering society after prison were re-incarcerated. In 2007, the re-incarceration rate of Truth Be Told graduates was 24.3% — half that of the general population.

So Truth Be Told is moving this in the right direction; however, we need to continue to improve this rate. Our Beyond Bars program provides the released graduates of our programs avenues to stay connected with TBT and to continue to expand on the tools they learned in our programs in the prisons. Creating this safe community for women after release makes a big, big difference to the graduates.

You ask me why I am involved with Truth Be Told? How could I not be involved? I could not just listen to the women’s stories without getting involved. I was hooked.

It is up to us, the individual supporters, to make a difference. I am committed to providing support to the facilitators so that they can achieve their goals. This is just too important to ignore. As a board member, my goal is to make everyone aware of the facts and numbers. With the incarceration numbers growing, I also want you to know how much we need your continued support, both financially and as a volunteer. Please get involved in whatever way you can.

Truth Be Told is holding its annual fundraising event, “Imagine,” on December 3 at the Frank Fickett Center, the Boy Scouts of America building at 12500 N. IH 35. The event is from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. We will serve a free fajita dinner along with a presentation about our programs and needs. This is our main fundraising event every year, and we are hoping to raise over $20,000, which will support our operating budget for 2013.

To attend as a potential donor or volunteer or to serve as a table captain, please email Carol Waid at carol@truth-be-told.org or call 512-292-6200.

Truth Be Told is the only prison program of its kind in Texas. We hope you will join us in supporting it.