Building a foundation

August 2, 2022

Each week, hundreds of people donate goods to our seven Dane County thrift stores. The funds raised by selling those goods usually cover about half of the annual cost of running our programs helping neighbors in need. The donated goods go from the stores to our centralized Processing Center, where they are sorted, priced and made ready to return to the stores for sale.

Honored by peers, working to change

King* started working at the Processing Center in November 2021 and in April 2022 was selected by the management team as our Employee of the Month. King is one of ten men who reside at Oakhill Correctional Institution and work at St. Vincent de Paul through a work release program.

A man smiling to the camera standing in front of a stack of brown cardboard boxes.

“I would like to thank John for giving me this incredible opportunity, I appreciate him and the St. Vinny’s family for embracing me.” – King

“King was an easy choice for Employee of the Month,” John Cobb, Associate Director of Retail Operations said. “The other guys look up to him because of his ability to get the job done. He’s able to bring up a concern in a productive way. He’s not going to let anyone mess up the [work-release] program here for himself or others.” Employees are selected from any Processing Center department and are evaluated for the honor based on their work accuracy, attendance, performance, demeanor and morale.

“I was humbled to be chosen,” King said. “I’ve never received anything of that significance. I just love the work, and the environment is like a family. They look at me like a human being, nothing but respect. It’s making me a completely better man. If something needs to be done, I do it. I want to make this place and myself successful.”

Program offers real-world work experience

Cobb began the work-release partnership with Oakhill in 2018. Since that time, nearly 50 men in the care of Oakhill have worked for SVdP. Cobb is grateful for the partnership and the work the men perform.

“Reliable, good, hard-working labor is a prize,” Cobb observed. “And it’s good for the men, as well. We treat them fairly and pay them competitive wages. They are just like every other employee, except they have to follow the work-release rules established by Oakhill.”

Cobb wants the men to succeed. “When they are released, they have a job with me if they want it,” Cobb said. I remind them – don’t go back to what got you incarcerated. Stay here with us. St. Vinny’s can help you as a stepping stone to your next opportunity.”

Three man standing smiling to the camera outdoors in front of a concrete building.

John Cobb, Associate Director of Retail Operations, King, April 2022 Employee of the Month, and Sergeant Craig Brusewitz, Work Release Coordinator stand outside the Processing Center.

Preparing for a successful transition

Sergeant Craig Bruesewitz, Work Release Coordinator for Oakhill, agrees the program is valuable. The men from Oakhill who work for SVdP have earned their way into the jobs. “They’ve done a good job along the way,” Bruesewitz said. “They have stayed out of trouble and succeeded through other levels of supervised work to get here. They’ve put aside real temptations to get to this level and now they have the chance to make some money.” That money allows the men to find housing, transportation and clothing, and meet other basic needs upon their release.

“Taking advantage of opportunities during incarceration is the key to successful release,” Bruesewitz continued. “This is the perfect place to form that bridge. When guys are successful in their transition because of these opportunities, that helps our whole community.”

King has dreams for his future. “When I get out I want to be in Madison and keep this job. I want to continue to grow and learn. I want to transition into this community and give back. My dad wasn’t in my life. I want to start a program to help boys like me who don’t have a father figure.” His program will be called Young KING (Keep Inspiring Next Generations). He is already inspiring his work colleagues now.

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