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SuEllen Fried is one of 10 women to be honored as “Women of Worth” by L’Oreal Paris. This is the 10th anniversary of the Women of Worth awards, and SuEllen was selected from more than 6,000 nominees. A video featuring her with our members at the prison at Lansing is on the website.

This week you can VOTE for SuEllen Fried on the WomenofWorth.com website. Every day until Nov. 20th, you can vote for SuEllen and her work.

On Thursday, Nov. 19th, L’Oreal Paris will feature SuEllen on all their social media, so if you vote on the website, retweet on Twitter, and share on Facebook, that gives SuEllen 3 votes. Her organization, Reaching Out From Within, can win $35,000 to support its work thanks to L’Oreal Paris and the Points of Light Foundation.

On Dec. 1, SuEllen Fried will join the other 9 nominees at a Gala in New York City, walking the red carpet with celebrities and being interviewed by E! as she shares her story of inmates who demonstrate the Courage to Change.

Please join us in voting for SuEllen at her link:

http://www.lorealparisusa.com/en/women-of-worth.aspx#SuEllen-Fried

Thank you for believing in the people we serve and their courage to change.

Prison is hard, and it takes courage to change so you can have a successful reentry, and become a contributing member of your family and community.

The keys to successful reentry include a support system, resilience, a positive attitude, and the courage to ask for help. Every alumnus of Reaching Out From Within will tell you stories of their challenges to find housing, a job…and sometimes just to eat on the outside.

One of our alums was so hungry for food and a job, he waited half the day for an interview with the manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Kansas City. The manager had posted a sign: Help Wanted. When our alum went in, he had no money to eat, but he asked the manager for a job. The manager promised to interview him soon, but then he got busy and forgot. When he came back into the now empty restaurant and saw that our alum had waited patiently (and hungrily) for 5 hours, he hired him on the spot.

Alumni who stay out of prison for 3 years and become part of our positive story of reentry success are those with the courage to change on the outside, and the willingness to remain positive inside themselves. A belief in yourself is one of the ways our learning community reinforces each other behind the walls.

Weekly, our prison members must summon the courage to change and thus to be vulnerable, if they want to be fully prepared for reentry success. On the outside, no one dictates your schedule, and you are on your own in so many ways. By staying connected to Alumni Groups in Wichita and Kansas City, a network of support is created. It’s fine to be vulnerable in that place, because whatever situation you are dealing with and find so frustrating has been dealt with before by someone in the group.

Recently, President Obama visited a successful reentry program in New Jersey. Here’s what he said after hearing stories from returning citizens:

“There are so many Americans who want a second chance,” Obama continued. “We want more success stories like these. It’s good for everyone.”

The president urged Congress to pass more comprehensive criminal-justice reforms to reduce the number of citizens who are locked up and to improve the chances for those in jail for leading a productive life after their release. America’s prison population is now 2.2 million — costing taxpayers some $8 billion a year — and the vast majority of these inmates will eventually be released, most with no formal oversight.

In the interim, Obama pledged to use his executive powers to provide $8 million over three years to help create high-quality education and training programs for former prisoners; another program targets technology training to ex-offenders in 30 communities, including Newark. The president also promised to revise federal housing guidelines to clarify the rules relating to arrests and potential eviction.

We are working with members to prepare for successful entry on the inside, and will stay connected to alumni as they demonstrate the courage to change on a daily basis. The Department of Justice is supporting more reentry efforts at http://www.justice.gov/archive/fbci/progmenu_reentry.html

Please see our Alumni page for information on our groups and how to stay connected to us and to each other.

A month from now, I will make my second 2,200 mile road trip to every prison in Kansas. We are preparing 500 gift boxes for our members and will share a care package that includes shampoo, comb, shave cream, body lotion, Hallmark cards, a composition notebook, pens, dental hygiene items, and a few edible treats. Here is what I wrote last year in late December.

What an inspirational journey I’ve been on with SuEllen Fried as we have been visiting the prisons with our truckload of wonderful gift bags and boxes prepared by board members, alumni, and volunteers. I wish I could describe the faces of our members in each of the facilities as we walk into the room. It is truly heart-warming for us, and I believe it is for the inmates as well. The Recognition Banquets include awards and a program, sometimes a play or skit, other times the most inspirational testimony from group leaders. I wish I had a video camera to capture it all because it would change hearts and minds of those on the outside. I will never forget one of the Eldorado inmates describing our program in three powerful words: Raw. Real. Relevant.

Each Gift Box can be sponsored by a donor. If you want to participate in our program, please go here now and donate as many Gift Boxes at $25 each as you can possibly afford.

Make a Donation

These humble Gift Boxes mean the world to the men and women of our organization who are spending the holidays away from our community, but who look forward to helping us pack these items at the Alumni Meeting next November!

When the exhibition “Faces of Change” opens at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, we encourage you to take time to looking into the faces of our members. Thanks to the mastery of internationally renowned photographer Nick Vedros, you will experience the humanity of these men and women.

On Saturday, Nov. 21st, we are having a day for family, volunteers and friends of Reaching Out From Within to meet our founder, SuEllen Fried, and other important leaders in our organization. Please join us anytime between 2 and 4 p.m. to experience the power of transformation.

When the project to “put a face on our organization” was first proposed by Mr. Vedros, we expected to have 25 portraits. More than twice as many B&W images were eventually created over a period of several months, thanks to the cooperation of Kansas Dept. of Corrections officials. Guest Curator Dan White, a Pulitzer prize-winning photographer, along with the museum and the artist, had the challenge of selecting 22 images for the museum space.

Based on preliminary response from our generous patrons, these images have an impact. They connect those of us on the outside with our fellow citizens who are behind the walls, and reconnect them to our community.

When growing up, I was placed in foster care because my biological mother and father were deceased. I was alone, and didn’t have any family members in my life. I was molested twice by my foster parents, and he threatened to kill me if I told anyone about it. Then it happened again in a different foster home. I started to feel that nobody loved me and I ran away.

When I was 10 years old, I was homeless and living on the streets, doing drugs and alcohol. At age 11, I joined a gang for acceptance, love and responsibility. Several times I have tried to take my own life, due to loneliness and rejection. But since I have been involved in Reaching Out From Within the past three years, I have a family now–and I feel like this organization saved me.

I’m very appreciative of what Reaching Out From Within has given me, to help turn my past around and to strengthen me for the future.

It takes courage to change.