ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A local organization was created to help those who have been incarcerated to reintegrate with the community. Now, the organization’s founders ask for support from fellow Abilenians.
Mandy Schuman and Andre Gwinn have full time jobs so they can pay their bills, but getting these jobs was not easy for them. Gwinn was convicted of a theft-related felony in 2010, and Schuman- a drug related offense. Because they were once incarcerated, their record made the process of getting back into the community difficult.
“It would have been a whole lot easier if I would have known that something like the BCRC existed,” Gwinn said.
The Big Country Reentry Coalition (BCRC) focuses on helping those who have been incarcerated integrate back into society by providing information on how to get employment, education and more. Schuman and Gwinn volunteer with the organization to help others navigate the waters after being released.
“A lot of times, whenever you reenter society, you don’t have an ID, you don’t have your birth certificate,” Schuman, Vice Chair for the coalition explained. “You don’t have anything available, and so you don’t know where to start.”
Gwinn said that mentality can also be what keeps many people from staying out of prison.
“If you can’t find work, which is a requirement for probation and parole, you can end up back in prison.”
This organization is still far from where they want it to be. Marketing lead for BCRC, Shelby Garfield, told KTAB/KRBC she hopes the coalition can get nonprofit status soon.
“We are not yet a nonprofit,” Garfield said. “We are looking to submit that application in the next year or so.”
Garfield said what they need is a building for the coalition. They are wanting to get a building to make it easier for people to connect, but more volunteering is required to make this happen.
“Volunteering time is a huge one for us,” Garfield explained. “Volunteering funds is another thing.”
Until then, volunteers at BCRC continue to support those who come to then in hopes of reentering society.
“If I can be that for somebody else, then I feel like that’s what I’m here to do,” Gwinn added.