Official Story from the Governor’s Office on Volunteerism and Community Service: “2009 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards”.
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Volunteer: Carolyn LeCroy, Norfolk
When Carolyn LeCroy emerged from 14 months of incarceration in a Virginia prison for women, one of her first goals was to address a profound problem she had witnessed among her fellow inmates. For many women, the most difficult part of incarceration is the separation from their children, accompanied by the inevitable feeling that they have failed as parents. The other side of the equation relates to the children themselves. Less than 50 percent of children of inmates are able to visit their parents in prison. Those children are seven times more likely to end up in the justice system later in life. Carolyn’s solution to the problem was to utilize her talents and skills as a media producer and enlist the help of other media professionals to help mothers make simple videotaped messages for their children. Eventually the effort expanded to include incarcerated fathers. Since 1999, she and other volunteers travel regularly to Virginia prisons at their own expense to produce an estimated 3,500 videotapes under what is now known as “The Messages Project.” Social workers report that the tapes are used constantly by the children — demonstrating the importance of the parent/child bond in a child’s life. The program has received national acclaim, including coverage on CNN and recognition by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Despite her own challenges, Carolyn had the courage and the perseverance to make a difference by helping families maintain their bond and move beyond the mistakes of the past like they should — together.