By Sandy . . . “A family member of mine is currently incarcerated for a sexual offense conviction and is due to be released in July, 2020. When he was first arrested, I thought I could make a difference by going to the legislature and lobbying for change. It soon became evident that I was not going to have a real impact in changing laws or minds, so I decided instead to change my small world.”
This is the beginning of an email that I recently received. The writer, a determined lady named Carolyn, continued telling me what she did to change her world.
With the initial motive being to raise money to help with legal bills, she started a business. An additional goal was to hire those with sexual offense convictions; she had quickly learned how difficult it can be for those on the registry to find employment.
To protect the privacy of the employees, the company is marketed as part of a national mental health awareness program.
The company started with making wine jelly, and it soon took on a life of its own. Others with family members on the registry became involved. The registrants who were hired designed various products. Their families became involved with taste-testing, determining the nutritional value of the products, and marketing. Whoever designs a specific product receives 100% of the profits for his product, giving him income to help him in his rehabilitated life.
The chef of Herbert’s Wine Jelly has been with them from the beginning. Upon his release from supervision and satisfaction of his full sentence, he was made a partner of the company and receives a salary.
A family member is helping support the fledgling company because he believes in the cause.
The jellies, as well as an expanded line of products, are currently for sale in several stores in Virginia and on Amazon. Long-range goals include starting a non-profit employment agency to assist felons in obtaining jobs, advocating in communities for increased understanding of the facts about the registry, and most of all helping as many people as possible live meaningful, productive lives in spite of their lifelong sentences as registered sexual offenders.
Company profits are used to enable current and future employees in having a safe working environment and restoring to them the dignity of providing for themselves from this point forward.
Carolyn is another in a growing list of individuals who are choosing to make a difference. She is proof that one person can make a difference.
Each of us can make a difference. Whether you are writing letters to editors in rebuttal of “hyped” news stories, doing and publishing research that reinforces the facts, testifying at legislative hearings against negative bills – or for favorable ones –, running a podcast, standing up to discrimination, or starting a business, you are making a difference. You are one more voice in the growing chorus of citizens who are all working in furtherance of our vision:
NARSOL envisions a society free from public shaming, dehumanizing registries, discrimination, and unconstitutional laws.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.