On Friday, December 5, 2014 fourteen minimum security non-violent inmates from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) correctional facility located in Petersburg, Virginia received services and resources at the Petersburg Freedom Support Center (PFSC) for the first "Camp Day of Service". All campers served in the U.S. military and volunteered to participate.
The FBP is one of few correctional facilities with a Veteran Program that fosters support and fellowship amongst those who served in one or more U.S. military branches. Tammy True McGrath, Re-entry Affairs Coordinator says, "it is one thing for people to receive literature regarding available services but to afford these men individualized consideration is incredible-especially having all resources in a single facility."
Petersburg's City Manager was in attendance and kicked off camp day by offering words of encouragement. "Most of us are on the fence and can go either left or right at any given moment. The most important thing is you all are here taking a proactive approach that will benefit you in the future," says William E. Johnson, III. Although these men are involved in the justice system, it does not disqualify their entitlement to benefits post release.
Each camper followed their schedule spending twenty minutes with vetted service providers at the PFSC. Providers included Arthur Bell Jr., AMVETS and Robert McPhaul, DAV Chapter 47-service connected disability claims, pension and appeal process; Quinton Brown Wells Fargo-money management, credit rebuilding and bank account information; Charles Johnson, McGuire VA Medical Center Rural Health Initiative-VA healthcare enrollment and eligibility; Michael Murphy, John Tyler Community College-education options and GI Bills; Marqueesha Harris, Linkitall LLC- employment services, resume building and job readiness; Kevin Birdsell, McGuire VA Medical Center-prison re-entry and veteran housing; Mary Howard, Virginia Supportive Housing-homeless prevention and case management; Kerri Gerke and Will Cochrane, Virginia Wounded Warrior Program-document retrieval, mental health support and re-entry assessment; Donnetta Payne-individual therapy and substance abuse counseling. Additionally, the American Red Cross' Southside Chapter provided veteran welcome kits to all participants.
The Petersburg Freedom Support Center recently celebrated one year of operation November 25, 2013. This ONESTOP facility is the only of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia that offers eighteen service providers to help veterans and their families become and/or remain sustainable in areas of employment, housing, healthcare, education, training, and mental health support.