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  • Doug Tjapkes

The real message behind problem solving: Someone cares!

I had an idea for a radio show back in the 1970s. Call-in shows were popular on local radio, but they all sounded alike. My idea was to be active instead of passive, to help listeners solve problems. We labeled the show Problem Solvers, and I hosted it along with my assistant Barb Werly. People could call with a problem. We and our listeners would then try to solve it. We did not limit the type of problem. If necessary, we would make an outgoing call to get an answer. I didn’t create the show for ratings...I did it to help people, but the ratings followed! It was one of the most popular mid-morning shows on west Michigan radio, emanating from our little 500-watt transmitter in our small town! That’s what is happening with HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. 20 years ago, we started out just helping those who claimed wrongful conviction. We found we couldn’t limit our assistance to one category. Calls were coming in about problems with health care, abuse, Parole Board issues, etc. We had to help. And so, over the years, HFP became “the problem solvers.” -People were worried about mail tampering, because the Parole Board was no longer acknowledging receipt of their commutation applications. An HFP message to the Governor, and the policy was changed! -A client believed a medical examiner had lied on an autopsy report, but he couldn’t get his hands on the document because our state won’t allow prisoners to file FOIA requests. We did it for him, and he was right! He’s elated, and has new hope. Sometimes family members call. A young man had been diagnosed with a serious case of diabetes while in a private hospital, but when returned to prison he didn’t receive his critically needed insulin. HFP stepped in, and he got it. An elderly grandmother was dying and had hoped to speak with her grandson by telephone one last time, but his prison telephone privileges had been revoked. HFP persuaded the warden to grant an exception. It’s what we do. But this is even more important! Our prompt response to 50-75 calls a day, 7 days a week, conveys this message: Someone will listen. Someone cares! We will and we do. "Wherever there is a human in need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference." – Kevin Heath

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