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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
I first heard of OAR in 1969 when I was an inmate at Goochland Correctioanl Center for Women. It wasn't until 2009 when I walked through the doors of OAR in Arlington, VA. Some people learn from their mistakes early in their criminal career and become law abiding citizens; not so with me. I suffered from an addiction to cocaine, coupled with severe physical, mental, and emotional abuse which started with my father at the age of two. These facts of my life are important, as they led up to Barbara walking through those doors in January, 2009. I was in a treatment center, getting ready to graduate, and had a deadline to find a job. Now, I was one of those closet addicts; I not only worked, I was a professional in my field, however after forty years of addiction, abuse, and seven felonies with thirty misdemeanors, lessened my chances of finding not just a job, but the job of my dreams. In January, 2009, Barbara was discouraged, desperate, and afraid. Unemployment was at an all time high (7.5%, People with excellent skills, references, and no criminal record couldn't finad a job; how was I going to? Well, the one thing I had was faith in OAR. You see, my couonselor there asked me "How are Barbara?", my response was "I am frustrated, disgusted, and ready to quit". Within five minutes I was sitting in the office of the Executive Director, Gail Arnall, who not only listened to me, she felt my pain and frustration. I gave her my resume and told her about the deadline to find a job, and this was Gail's response "Barbara, I promise you will have a job before your deadline".Tears of gratitude trickled down my face as I thanked Gail from the bottom of my heart. As I left her office, I thanked the God of my choice for leading me to OAR in Arlington, VA. Less than a week later I received a call from Haley Wiggins of The Family Place; a non-profit in the District of Columbia. She needed an Executive Assistant! I went on the interview, spoke frankly about my past, honest about where I was in my life today, and how I felt about The Family Place's mission. In a week I was working at The Family Place. Today I celebrate a year at The Family PLace with it's ups and downs, being accepted as the new kid on the block, and having bonded with my boss, Haley. in addition, I am giving back what I so freely received from OAR Arlington; I volunteer at their 'tours'and tell my story whenever I can. Why I was even video taped at The Family Place, then invited to OAR's Second Chance breakfast fundraiser and spoke to hundreds of people; tears of gratitude flowed again! This hoilday season I was able to donate some money to OAR; what a great feeling it gave me. I say all this to say quite simply: OAR saved my life. THey believed in me when no one would. Today I am a changed woman; I no longer fear the past, as the men and women of OAR Arlington have shown me compassion and given me hope and a future. God bless OAR Arlington.
I travel the United States extensively, visiting jails, prisons and community organizations that provide assistance to ex-offenders who are making a reentry into the community. I have lost count of the number of community organizations I have visited over the years. During my 4th quarter 2009, 50-day tour of the east and southeastern states, I had the opportunity to visit Offender Aid and Restoration of Arlington Virginia (OARA). I spent a full and productive week with the organization, its entire staff, many of its volunteers, and most importantly, its clients. I gained a well-rounded working understanding of OARA’s programs and observed first-hand the relationships OARA has with its clients. The organization’s Executive Director, Dr. Gail Arnall, who is among the most progressive and dynamic leaders I have met, sets OARA’s vision. A week-long visit with OARA’s staff demonstrated that Dr. Arnall’s hiring criterion is to build a team of extraordinary professional people who very clearly radiate a definitive passion for their work, and who produce quantifiable results. Dr. Arnall has also built an organization of policies, practices and agendas that insures succession and the organization continued mission. Based upon my experiences, I believe that the best way to know the most important aspects of a person is to speak with their children, and the best way to understand an organization is to speak with its employees and clients. My conversations with numerous OARA clients provided a great deal of insight, and it became quickly apparent that OARA is effectively meeting and exceeding its mission. During my interactions with OARA clients, I heard only praise for the organization and its staff, and not a single comment that was uncomplimentary. This was a first in my entire career. OARA has pioneered fresh, definitive and innovative agendas that homogenize toward the creation of the model that other similar organizations should clearly follow. The organization’s staff has the thirst to embrace difficult challenges and implement solutions that engender conclusive resolutions. OARA’s entire staff and Board are fully engaged and integrated as one, all moving in a coordinated direction as a team. The operation is streamlined and practices excellent economic practicalities and efficiencies. For the work that I do, my selection of community organizations specialized in ex-offender reentry and reducing recidivism is critical. As a function of past life experience, I find myself frequently observing the operations of jails, prisons and community organization through the due diligence lens of strategic acquisitions and horing key people in the corporate world. When making strategic acquisitions and hiring key people, one of the most important, yet difficult and elusive criteria to ascertain in these processes is the person’s core values, honesty and character. With regard to OARA’s staff and Board, I would hire any and all of them in any position of responsibility, authority and trust. If OAR were a private corporation, I would have bought it on the spot. OARA’s leadership, dedication and commitment to strive for excellence have been inspirational to me. Without any reservation, I offer my highest recommendation. I will happily make myself available to discuss my experiences with OARA and can be contacted through either of the organizations below. Dave Koch Green Lab Holdings, Inc www.greenlabenergy.com Self Reinvention Corp www.self-reinvention.org
I've been very impressede when I've volunteered with OAR about the quality of training and job placement. I've met clients and heard their stories, and everyone is very positive about its work.