July 24 is a red-letter day! For two reasons. First, it’s our youngest son Matthew’s birthday. And second, it’s the day that Maurice Henry Carter walked out of prison into the free world, after spending 29 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. I was at his side when he walked out of the Duane L. Waters Prison Hospital on this date in 2004.
Matt would agree that his birthday in 2004 was special, because as a young reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune, he was assigned to cover Maurice Carter’s release. His story was on the front page of the newspaper. His picture of Maurice holding his freedom papers high above his head graces the cover of my book SWEET FREEDOM.
Neither Maurice, nor Matt, nor I could have predicted our future involvement with prisoners. My 9-year battle to free Maurice led to the formation of what we now know as HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. Maurice kept insisting that there was a critical need for an organization like ours, while I quietly dealt with a personal desire to get back into radio broadcasting---my first career and my first love. Matt made a few career changes, while he quietly dealt with his desire to do radio sports broadcasting. He had no intention of getting into the prison business. Today, with a generous amount of divine intervention, I serve as President of HFP while radio is nothing more than a fond memory. And Matt is now Executive Director of HFP, and he enjoys an avocation of high school and college sports broadcasting.
Over the past 15 years, our goal and our mission have been fine-tuned, and the number of professional volunteers who assist us in an advisory capacity now totals over 50! Unlike other advocacy agencies who spend some time helping individual prisoners, HFP devotes all of its time and energy assisting Michigan inmates who are struggling with a variety of in-prison problems, issues and needs. Our case file is in the hundreds, and for more than two years running we have added the name of one new prisoner per day to the list of people whom we are serving.
Continuity is our goal now, and to help with that our aggressive Board of Directors has retained a fine consultant who specializes not only in assisting 501c3 agencies, but who has a personal history of working with prisoners. After a thorough evaluation of our work, he boldly stated, No one is doing what you are doing; no one wants to do what you are doing; no one dares to do what you are doing!
High praise, indeed, but something we have realized for a long time.
May God bless our plans for growth, expansion and continuity!
May we look forward to that day when chapters of HFP can be established in many other states!
But most important, may we never lose sight of the fact that our primary goal is to get down into the trenches, roll up our sleeves, and help prisoners with kindness and compassion, one at a time, in the name of Jesus.