Sandusky native aims to start outreach for former inmates

SANDUSKY After the death of Delores Burel's father a year ago, the calling began. "He definitely had a passion and hea
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

After the death of Delores Burel's father a year ago, the calling began.

"He definitely had a passion and heart for people who were incarcerated," she said.

Her father, Pastor Pervis Brown Sr., ministered to inmates at the Erie County jail for more than 30 years.

"When my dad passed away it seemed like that passion he had started to spring up in me," Burel said.

Now that passion has led Burel, of Fremont, to start a nonprofit organization to help former inmates transition back into society. Burel, who will serve as program director, started putting together the organization, called Bridge "D" Gap, in January.

She is now looking for community support in Sandusky to get it going.

Having grown up in Searsville, Burel said she sees a dire need for this kind of organization in Sandusky.

"I have a heart for this community," she said.

Bridge "D" Gap aims to "open the door" for former offenders. One of the doors that is often closed is the job market.

"Employers will not even hire you," she said about those who have felonies on their records.

Without a job many of these people end up in low income housing and can't pay child support, she said.

But there are enticements for employers to give former inmates a chance, Burel said. For example, an employer may be eligible for a tax credit if they hire a former inmate.

Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone said the community could benefit from such a program.

"There's a huge transition when they get out of the system," he said. "If they don't transition well they end up back in the system."

Bridge "D" Gap will help link former convicts to the resources they need to start a new life. Part of linking those resources will mean changing the general opinion about felons.

"A lot of people have attitudes," Burel said. "They don't want to invest in someone who has been punished. This affects families ... kids. People are looking for somebody to help them."

The vision of Bridge "D" Gap will include volunteers meeting with groups to talk about the prospects of giving a former inmate a second chance.

This includes meeting with not only employers, but medical providers, substance abuse treatment providers, mentors, court officials, probation officers, job and family services and child services, Burel said.

One person who said he plans on serving on a board of directors for the organization is Dallas Leake, of Fremont, who is program director for the Sandusky County Juvenile Detention Center.

"It's something that's needed. When they come back into the community, there is a lot of hardship," Leake said. "I think it's something that is needed and would really benefit the community."

As the pieces to the picture of this organization slowly come together, Burel can't help but think her father would be proud.

"In some way Pervis Brown is still rollin'," she said with a smile.

FACTBOX:

How to help get Bridge "D" Gap started:

* Donate funds by cash or check.

* Send by mail to:

Bridge "D" Gap

P.O. Box 1373

Sandusky, OH 44870

* Make checks to "Bridge 'D' Gap Inc."

* Donate space. An office in Sandusky will be needed to headquarter the organization.

* Volunteer time to help the organization and former inmates.

* For information call 419-680-0671.