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  • Doug Tjapkes

GRATITUDE from behind bars!

Michigan prisoners are showing appreciation for our services in a most amazing and gracious manner. It’s no secret that I struggle when someone asks how HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS measures success. I have appreciated Fr. Greg Boyle’s thoughts on the subject, when asked about his work with gang members. “Jesus was always too busy being faithful to worry about success. I'm not opposed to success; I just think we should accept it only if it is a by-product of our fidelity. If our primary concern is results, we will choose to work only with those who give us good ones.” But, it’s a fair question. One very nice person said she had difficulty donating to our cause because another charity she supports can tell her exactly how many hungry children they are feeding. We can’t provide numbers like that. We can tell her how many prisoners we are working with, but that has nothing to do with success. A grant writer consultant insists that success data is important. Yet, this is why it’s complicated. We’re responding to some 100 calls a day, and we obviously can’t help every person in prison with every problem he or she faces. So, compiling specific data regarding our successes isn’t easy. We consider it a huge success, for example, when the prisoner just shows gratitude that someone cares. But how do you reflect that on a chart or list? Well, a growing percentage of prisoners have found a most amazing way. They’re donating money to support our cause! Aware of the dramatic increase in office activity in the past year, they’re stepping up to the plate. Something we’ve never seen before! Something we've never asked for. HFP has received some 60 cash donations from prisoners already this average of 10 per month! Unheard of in this business! These people, if they are fortunate enough to even have a job, may earn 40 or 50 cents an hour. While their wages haven’t gone up in decades, prison store and vending machine prices just keep on rising. They're not flush with dollars. Now the headline. This week, we received the largest single gift from a Michigan prisoner! Mr. D, who has won a couple of court settlements, said, “I really want to make a generous donation to your corporation because you have been the first organization to really help these guys in here in a way that makes a difference. Please, send my love to each and every one of you and thank you.” His gift: $15,000.00! This proof may not be what statisticians were hoping for, but we’ll claim it as a strong indication of HFP success. And the resulting feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment for our team is delicious! Thank you, Mr. D. Thank you, Lord!

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