Jail ministry seeks donations

Published 8:35 pm Saturday, August 30, 2014

A local ministry that brings encouragement to inmates at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail is seeking donations to cover the cost of its work.

Southeastern Correctional Ministry is a nonprofit, Christian organization with 140 volunteers who visit 24 Southeastern Virginia jails on a regular basis. They reach 4,500 men and women who are incarcerated throughout the region.

“The jail is very welcoming of us,” said Jay Dorschel, a volunteer who regularly visits Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

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The volunteers do Bible lessons and devotions as well as prayer, counseling and just talking with those they meet, Dorschel said. Volunteers go directly into the cell blocks to talk with the inmates.

Inmates are not required to talk with the volunteers, said Gina Pitrone, who visits women at Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

“It’s completely voluntary,” she said. “We may be the only visit they have.”

The volunteers don’t pry about why the inmates have landed in jail or other aspects of the person’s life, but the inmates often want to talk, she said.

“It’s interesting that they reveal things that show the hurt and the trials they have been through,” Pitrone said. “Not their court trials, but the intensity of their life’s path.”

The volunteers encourage the inmates to get involved in programs and a church when they leave the jail.

“We bring hope to them,” she said. “Sometimes when there’s no hope, there’s a lot of anger. The hope switches their anger to possibility.”

Some inmates even form their own groups to study the Bible when the volunteers aren’t there, Pitrone said.

“We just take the word of the Lord in there,” Dorschel said. “That’s what our job is.”

The ministry is in need of donations to cover the cost of its one paid employee, who works at donated office space at Hampton Baptist Church, as well as lesson materials it shares in the jails.

In the past, the ministry has held a golf tournament as its major fundraiser. But folks are getting burned out on them, and they have a high overhead, Dorschel said.

So, the ministry is simply asking for donations this year. For those who still want to play golf, a celebratory outing at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at Nansemond River Golf Course is planned. The course will provide rounds at a special rate of $35 for those interested.

The fundraiser is named in honor of Jack and Betty Wills, who Dorschel said were longtime volunteers. Jack Wills was visiting jails into his 90s, Dorschel said.

“He was such a stalwart for the jail ministry,” he said.

To donate, email rejoyce283@gmail.com or mail a check to Southeastern Correctional Ministry, 40 Kings Way, Hampton, VA 23669.

For more information, email jdorschel@nansemondins.com.