Doing Good: Nonprofit reaches out to prisons, helps to change lives.

To volunteer with HeartBound Ministries, go to www.heartboundministries.com

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  • The Belk Foundation awarded $425,000 in grants last year to benefit students in greater Atlanta. The funds helped The New Teacher Project in Fulton County Schools; early literacy programs at the Atlanta Speech School; social and emotional learning program in high-poverty elementary schools in Fulton County; reading and math programs for Latino students; and, academic summer programs at Atlanta Public Schools. The Foundation has invested more than $2 million annually in schools and a variety of programs including mentoring, summer learning and after-school support.
  • For four years, Abby Collins, 10, has sold homemade heart-shaped dog cookies, chocolate frosted cupcakes and other baked goods to raise the money needed to build a home in Haiti in memory of her aunt, Abby Marie Ledbetter. The home was sponsored by Food for the Poor, an organization that helps feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. It also provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance.
  • The Atlanta Apartment Association hosted the 23rd Annual Can Can Ball themed "Can Can Royale" at The Sheraton Atlanta Hotel on Aug. 23 benefitting the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The fundraiser rasied $224,000 for the food agency. ACFB procures over 45 million pounds of food and groceries each year and distributes it to more than 600 nonprofit partner agencies serving families and individuals in 29 metro Atlanta and north Georgia counties.
  • The Office Depot Foundation donated 5,000 colorful new sackpacks containing essential school supplies to kids served by nonprofit organizations, schools and agencies in the Atlanta area on July 19 in Smyrna. The Office Depot Foundation is the independent charitable giving arm of Office Depot Inc. The Foundation supports a variety of programs that give children tools to succeed in school and in life; build the capacity of nonprofit organizations through collaboration and innovation; and help communities prepare for disasters, as well as recovering and rebuilding afterwards.
  • Duane LeGate, president of Marietta-based Commissions Inc., presented $500 to Must Ministries after being challenged to a push-up contest by nine-year-old Austin Westbrook. Westbrook completed 600 pushups to defeat the entire Commissions Inc. team, who completed 584 pushups.

HeartBound Ministries is on a mission. It equips prison chaplains and provides programs and resources to help meet physical and spiritual needs of the prison community — correctional staff, inmates and their families — and aims to change the culture from one of crime and incarceration to hope and restoration.

Founded in 2003, the nonprofit organization was started to host programs to help inmates in the Georgia Prison system. The goal is to reduce recidivism and encourage the inmates to pursue healthy and meaningful lives upon their release.

“There is a real need for this outreach in our community,” said Andrea Shelton, president of HeartBound.

About 95 percent of Georgia’s inmates will be released back into society, but 75 percent will wind up back in the prison system. “We have seen great success with this program, and as it continues on within the prison systems, we hope to break the cycle once they are released.”

The organization offers many programs such as The Integrity Project, a weekly values-developmental course; Malachi Dads, a weekly parenting training program for incarcerated fathers; and Project ART, which aims to reach out and inspire juvenile offenders through art.

Tony Van Dyke started Project ART with Shelton, and has been working with juvenile offenders since 2011. “We use art as a bridge to talk with these boys,” said Van Dyke, who is a cartoonist and ordained preacher. Using super heroes and allowing them to build universes to tell stories, Van Dyke and teaching partner Vincent Allen help the kids break down barriers to confront and deal with their personal issues.

Through their work in the past two years, Project ART plans on releasing comic books that will circulate through the juvenile detention centers and prisons to help increase the outreach of the program.

The impact that HeartBound and its programs makes throughout the prisons is not possible without its many volunteers. Volunteers can helpthe nonprofit by partnering with it to provide spiritual guidance, substance abuse counseling, cognitive classes, literacy services, life skills training, parenting classes and other rehabilitative programs for adult and juvenile offenders.

“We need the community’s help on making our mission possible,” said Shelton. “Whatever someone is good at, we need their help. It truly becomes a community effort to help change and enrich these lives so the inmates can become better people.”

In addition to the formal programs offered by HeartBound, Georgia’s 33 state prisons and 28 juvenile correctional facilities are also supported through outreach programs featuring professional athletes, musicians, speakers and dramatists; donations of literature, videos, indigent hygiene items, and holiday care bags; re-entry support for inmates leaving prison, and computer equipment and instruction.

HeartBound has conducted over 750 outreach programs in Georgia prisons and facilitated six prison adoptions.

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