Dismas House seeks community support

As the economy has slowed, service organizations that rely on grant funding and in-kind donations have begun to reach out for community support. Dismas House of the Upper Cumberland in Cookeville is no exception. “Our budget was cut $75,000 dollars this year,” Daisy Dodd of Dismas House of the Upper Cumberland said. “So, we need help with fundraising events and are always accepting volunteer help.”

Located just off of Tech’s campus, Dismas House works as a support system for motivated offenders paroled from Tennessee prisons or released from jail. At Dismas House, carefully screened residents have access to a positive lifestyle environment, employment assistance and support during the process of reentering the community.

“We are interested in getting two motivated interns for the Spring 2010 semester,” Dodd said. “One to help maintain and update our website, dismascookeville.org and one to help write newsletters, success stories about current residents, create flyers and brochures, and help with office work.”

While the interns would not be paid, Tech students could earn credit hours for internships at Dismas House. Interested students should speak with their academic advisor about signing up for internship credit hours and contact Dismas House at (931)520-8448.

“An upperclass English major or a grad student would be great,” Dodd said.

Internships offer students resume building experience and a chance to apply skills learned in the classroom.

However, there are many other ways to help. Volunteers can help residents cook evening meals, organize and host resident activities, raise money or host a charity drive to collect items needed for the organization, help maintain and enhance the premises of Dismas House through landscaping or interior design, or act as a mentor for residents.

“We also have some residents who are not employed and need jobs,” Dodd added.

Ninety percent of residents are employed within a month of entering the Dismas program.

According to Dismas House, “Studies have shown that securing a job is the single best predictor that an ex-offender will not return to prison. When an employer hires a resident from a Dismas House, they are hiring someone who has exhibited a desire to change his or her life before leaving prison.”

Assisting ex-offenders for 35 years, Dismas House was founded in 1974, and 64 percent of Dismas residents stay out of prison for good.

While the average annual cost to house an inmate in Tennessee is $22,000, the annual cost to house a Dismas resident is only $2,000.

For more information or to help, contact Dismas House at 1226 Byrne Ave. in Cookeville or at kengland@dismas.org.