(March 20, 2017) Catherine Read talks with Derwin Overton of OAR Fairfax. OAR was founded in 1971 as a national organization which later became more localized with smaller non-profits embedded into communities across the country to better serve those who are released from incarceration. Opportunities, Alternatives and Resources is the core value of this organization which started out as Offender Aid and Restoration.
Derwin Overton has been with OAR for fourteen years, with 10 of those years as Executive Director. OAR Fairfax serves Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun Counties with some of their funding coming from the national organization, some from Fairfax County and the rest a cobbled together mix of grants and individual donors. They have the support of the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office which runs the Fairfax County jail and works to facilitate the work they do with inmates prior to their release. OAR also works with the local judiciary on alternative sentencing for first offenders, using community service hours as a more appropriate form of restorative justice.
Classes are taught inside the jail on basic skills like financial management, interpersonal skills, parenting, resume writing and job interviews. Upon release, program participants are provided with basic needs like a set of clothes, toiletries, tokens for transportation and snacks. In the third segment, volunteer services coordinator Peggy Krusell talks about what brought her to the program as a volunteer and why she is so passionate in her mission to help these returning citizens to write a better chapter in their life story.
John Chapman joins Catherine in the second segment to talk about his experience with OAR prior to his release from jail and how he was inspired by his own difficulty in finding a job to create a jobs training program. John founded the non-profit Johnny Apple Seed Association, Inc. to train those formerly incarcerated to be electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians. He acquired and converted an old party bus into a mobile training center. With the financial support and backing of the Home Depot in South Riding, that first training effort took off. There is now a training center in Seven Corners and John is looking to scale and expand these training efforts to other locations around Virginia. They have had great early success in their training efforts and are providing local communities with the skilled and licensed tradesman that are in short supply.
OAR continues to build awareness of the services they provide both inside local detention centers and to the formerly incarcerated individuals upon their release. There is a constant search for funding, volunteers, instructors, donated supplies and training programs to serve this population like Johnny Apple Seed.
OAR is hosting an event on June 7, 2017 at Bull Run Winery to raise money and awareness for the services they provide here in Northern Virginia. The public is invited and encouraged to attend to find out more about how this organization is helping those who have been incarcerated to successfully return to their families and communities.