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January 30, 2010

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January 30, 2010

I volunteer with OAR and it has been a great experience. OAR helps many people that are trying to get back into the community that have made mistakes in their lives. Everyone deserves a second chance and prisons do not help inmates get back into the community, they sometimes make prisoners even more bitter towards society. OAR gives these people the second chance they deserve. It is not easy coming back into a society you have been pulled out of for many years. OAR helps ex-offenders get back on their feet and provide for themselves and their families again.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

meeting these ex-offenders. They want to get back into the community and get back on the right track. Their motivation is inspiring and I love the fact that I am helping them acheive their goals.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

January 30, 2010

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January 30, 2010

I have been personally rewarded by working as a volunteer. I am impressed by the dedication and personal skills of all the team members I have worked with.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

I have grown as a human being and have learned about people that have totally different life experiences from my own.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

January 30, 2010

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January 30, 2010

OAR has offered me the tremendous opportunity to give back to my community with visible results. Volunteering each week for several months, I have been able to actually see lives being turned around and feel a growing sense of hope where there once was none. Not only have they mastered their process to create an efficient organization, but the entire staff generates a rare enthusiasm that is both contagious and addicting. I wouldn't change a thing.

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The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

amazing.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

January 30, 2010

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January 30, 2010

Volunteering with OAR has been an extremely rewarding experience. Sitting down with ex-offenders and helping them apply to jobs may not always be the most exciting thing to do, but knowing that I am helping someone in need makes it worth it.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

having the opportunity to work with so many different people and personalities.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

very friendly, dedicated, and unselfish.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

expand the scope of their services to other counties/cities in northern Virginia.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

January 30, 2010

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January 30, 2010

I have been volunteering at the OAR for over a month now, and I am amazed by the the whole organization. The OAR deeply cares and works hard to get the clients back on their feet. Not many organizations out there care for ex-offenders like the OAR does. I am grateful to be part of such an incredible team. I have learned so much.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

not only conducting classes for anger management but helping ex-offenders find employment

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

very professional and highly motivated

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Help more clients find suitable housing

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

January 28, 2010

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January 28, 2010

I have been a volunteer with OAR in Arlington County for a few years now, off and on. It is by far my favorite cause to support because I have seen first hand the amazing and worthwhile work they do. I have volunteered with Project Christmas Angel, a program in which OAR distributes holiday gifts to children of incarcerated parents. I have called the parents and heard their stories about not otherwise being able to provide gifts for their children. I have also volunteered with OAR's Post-Release Education Program (PREP) and have helped those recently released from jail to build a resume, practice their interviewing skills, and more. Without the help of OAR, many of these clients would not get jobs and possibly fall back into trouble. Furthermore, through my own employment, I work with OAR-referred clients. The community service clients of OAR are a huge benefit to the local community, and are well organized by OAR. Also, the staff of OAR is fantastic! I donate my time and money to OAR, and plan to do so for many years to come, because I wholeheartedly support their cause and dedication.

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The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

very easy to work with. The staff is quickly responsive to e-mails and phone calls, and it's clear that they are passionate about their jobs. The other volunteers I have interacted with are equally passionate, knowledgeable, and helpful.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

January 28, 2010

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January 28, 2010

I had the opportunity to listen to a client presentation and it was an amazing story of rebuilding a life that was once torn with strife and heartache. The work being done at OAR is transforming lives and helping to bring about a higher quality of life for the entire community. My experience with the staff, volunteers, and clients has opened my eyes and heart to the vast amount of work yet to be done.

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The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

The entire staff is amazing and it is an honor to be associated with such wonderful men and women. They have a true passion for service and do so with the highest level of integrity.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

January 27, 2010

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January 27, 2010

OAR is a great group of people providing a very much needed service to our community. Through OAR, I have worked on several community service projects including the Rosslyn Jazz Festival, Taste of Arlington and the US Air Force Cycling Classic. I've also had the pleasure of working directly with the OAR staff on their television program - OAR Today. They are always looking for people to pitch in and help and they're a great group to spend your time with!

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The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

providing community service through their direction.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

make it easier for them to communicate with their clients.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

working with people that I never would have met otherwise.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

extremely helpful and enjoyable

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

expand it's reach to more of the community and really make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.

Ways to make it better...

they had the staff, volunteers and finances to fully realize their vision.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

financial support.

One thing I'd also say is that...

they perform a special service for our community.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

January 19, 2010

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January 19, 2010

OARA is one of the Arlington Interfaith Council's Helping Hands, organizations the AIC supports that provide unique services to residents. I have been associated with OAR for the past two+ years and have marveled at the ways the help offenders reenter the community after paying their debt to society. I have attended their tours and have seen how organized they are and the many lives they have touched. They are providing an invaluable service to the community and helping to reduce the vicious cycle of imprisonment.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

seeing how they have touched former offenders and their families, providing essential services to reenter the community.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

n/a

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

their enthusiasm and compassion

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

kind, pragmatic and compassionate

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

expand their services in the local area, while keeping the personal touch

Ways to make it better...

n/a

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

public apathy and funding shortfalls

One thing I'd also say is that...

n/a

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

January 14, 2010

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January 14, 2010

It was only by good fortune being a first-time inmate that I was directed to the Offender Aid & Restoration (OAR) unit at the Alexandria Jail. I was completely unprepared for my jail time and surprised by the structured jail life expeted by the OAR unit which included classes, discussions, presentations and re-entry guidance. Instead of idleness and a great deal of TV watching which the general jail population seemed to enjoy, the social workers and instructors provided by OAR shared resources unavailable to the general population including career counseling, reflection tools for self-awareness, literacy mentors, special speakers on government affairs relating to the criminal justice system or rehabilitation efforts, crafts and home economics, and my favorite, Movies & Discussion. Having come from a professional background where I participated in life coaching, business coaching and mental health therapy, as well having traveled all over the world, I feel competent evaluating this non-profit effort in a controlled environment as every action I witnessed by OAR could easily have been on the corporate level. The unit held approximately 18 to 28 inmates at a time, and were called OAR clients; a nice start to the level of respect extended by OAR and the expectation that the inmate be respectful in return. One of the first hardships I recognized on behalf of the OAR staff or volunteers was the lack of consistency with their audience as the participation in the unit depended on disciplinary action or transfers out to prison. Despite this inconsistent audience of the jail unit, the professionals representing OAR were welcoming, realistic, engaging and somehow captured the attention of rebellious or manipulative women inmates. I applauded their manner and the tools they provided my unit. Limited to the materials they are allowed to bring into a jail environment, the worksheets, the books, the movies, the speakers, the presentations were all of a quality I had witnessed at nationally recognized personal coaching or corporate/business meetings! And the language and information being shared was applicable or understandable to the illiterate, the non-English speaking, and the varied ages and races. This was accomplished by a constant display of self-respect and teaching self-respect, something sorely and consistently lacking with the inmate population. And no matter the difference in criminal charges, physical appearances, and, of course, the daily requirement to remain in the OAR program, the inmates communicated amongst themselves in order to do their “homework”. The topics simply opened the door for discussion, self-reflection, or future plans, and allowed for mutual cooperation within the jail environment. In preparation for not returning to either negative environments or bad situations upon release from jail, OAR offered documentation services, i.e. Social Security cards, identifications, birth certificates, etc. in order to begin life fresh and on the right track. For those anxious about jobs upon release, as it is tremendous hardship getting employed with a criminal record no matter the circumstances, certifications in Food Handling were sponsored by OAR. OAR clients were also given a little more priority in job placement within the jail thereby allowing learned skills, i.e. hair cutting, food preparation, laundry service. The discipline and participation required by the OAR unit was also an excellent foundation for future endeavors. And programs like “Movies & Discussion” allowed the luxury or entertainment of watching yet holding a hidden agenda whereupon we experienced specific movies as chosen by the instructor inspiring self-awareness journaling, questions & answers on relevance of life decisions, and finally not giving up on one self. I was more than shocked after watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy over the course of several weeks to discover what a strong feminist message it possessed. I came to journal many pages about my past decision making, my mistakes, my friends and my family. I also realized that similar movies I had watched before my incarceration held more than just entertainment value hence I use the same worksheet tools 3 years later to aid in continued self-reflection and life building skills. Discussions with our very capable instructor, beyond the comprehensive worksheet of questions or thoughts, truly helped me reflect about my life; the blessings, curses and the future of that same life. With respect to all the religious or faith-based groups that service the corrections system, I believe one of the most complimentary testimonies I can make about OAR is that their program was not religious based. Rather it was respectful that the jail had many organizations offering faith counseling or leadership, Bible studies, and more, so OAR’s comprehensive onsite program, and their staff, met all the other tangible or core needs to create whole human beings again, as most in jail or prison, I truly believe, are shells of what they truly are or possibly can be in the future. After my release, in mid-December, OAR provided me with some toys for my young son so Christmas would not be empty. To this day, OAR events or efforts like “Thanksgiving Project”, or “Holiday Gift Wrapping”, where clients, volunteers and OAR staff come together are more than joyous. OAR offers a gracious feeling to its clients rather than humbling. The OAR staff also does an evaluation to ensure that their clients have food, shelter, job re-entry means and a variety of other resources thereby allowing the client to not feel helpless nor placed back in difficult circumstances. And to their credit, they are always seeking ways to improve the program without sacrificing the quality or integrity of the core program, i.e. television show sharing information with the public, for-profit for non-profit businesses, apprentice programs, community gatherings. I’ve witnessed many social work organizations constantly reach for something new whereupon the necessities can be forgotten. I have yet to experience or witness that with OAR much to their credit as they are always involved in benefiting their clients and the politics involved in the corrections system. The professionalism of the staff, yet real-life attitude, is highly complimented by the clients I still have communication with after this time. I can’t say the same for many of the other organizations where ex-offenders have shared information. There are many folks seeking to help those who need a voice or assistance to stand tall, and I for one am very thankful for those organizations and individuals. I have been a volunteer all my life due to a heavy influence by my parents who believed in stewardship and community. It has been a tremendous joy and honor to have OAR in my life as well as their contributions to representing ex-offenders across the board. I strongly endorse their program, their mission and their staff. Applause to you all!

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

many ways, i.e. confidence building, life skills, shared resources for food and shelter, emergency care, and just professional guidance by the staff.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

nationalize their model so that every city benefits from their mission statement and abilities, also providing opportunities to clients outside of existing bad environments.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

their aptitude for treating the delicate nature of ex-offenders with respect no matter the circumstances, as opposed to many social work organizations in the past where I felt staff were tainted by failures.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

diverse, capable, respectful, and more importantly always seeking solutions.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

go national and become a model for offender rehabilitation or ex-offender advocacy. With today's economy I believe that the corrections system is going to be overwhelmed so OAR is a necessity!

Ways to make it better...

I the resources for ex-offender employment was more readily available as my felony status appears to be my only hurdle to sustainable employment.

One thing I'd also say is that...

the leadership, Executive Director Gail Arnall and the Directors I have met possess have an amazing spirit and unwavering dedication that should be applauded. As in the proverbial, "reflection of management", OAR does exactly that to its benefit!

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

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3 hours of volunteer time for this nonprofit will...

Assist with classes and tutoring in or out of the detention facility, employment training, become a life coach, and administrative support. Volunteer