Giving back to give others hope

Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, (in blue jacket) with other participants in Pittsburgh's Light of Life walk

Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, (in blue jacket) with other participants in Pittsburgh’s Light of Life walk

Since 2004, long-time NCRA member Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, a freelance captioner and court reporter from Pittsburgh, Pa., has volunteered for Light of Life Rescue Mission, a local organization that supports hungry and homeless men, women, and children. She does it, she says, because she needs to know each morning when she gets up that what she is working for is beyond herself.

While the Light of Life Rescue Mission provides a hot meal and a warm bed for the people it serves, Peters said the organization also offers programs and education to help people become independent again.

“Light of Life teaches people to fish. Light of Life keeps families together. Whether they are addicted, in recovery, or through tough life circumstances find themselves homeless, Light of Life makes it a mission to get them back on their feet, living with independence and pride again. They must commit to the program, and so Light of Life brings support, accountability, and hope,” says Peters.

Her commitment to supporting Light of Life began when she met the organization’s head of fundraising. “I said: ‘Don’t send me your pamphlets!  You’re wasting paper on me! I will support you significantly every year.’ So, we started meeting to discuss programs; and by the goodness of God, I hold up my end of the bargain,” Peters said.

Peters said she and her family understand the impact that difficult circumstances can have on people of all ages. Her mother passed away when she and her siblings were in their childhood, and though her dad was great, she said everyone in the family struggled in their own way with that significant loss.

“My younger brother dealt with addiction for many years and at one point did go to jail. I remember buying him new clothes so he could look for a job as he struggled returning to society.  Eventually, I am proud to say, he did win his battle and was a hard-working, independent husband and father.  He took responsibility and worked.  He was respected by the workers he eventually supervised in his shop,” Peters shared. “Sadly, he passed of a heart attack five years ago, while he was still too young. But his story is so powerful, and those co-workers were as devastated as we were. He was a real leader to them because they knew he overcame the struggle. He led by example.”

One of the activities Light of Life holds each year is an annual 20-mile walk through Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods to raise awareness about the mission and its work. Peters said joining her and other volunteers for the event are former NFL Pittsburgh Steelers players Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley, who also work tirelessly with Light of Life.

“Why walk? Because that’s what the homeless do — all day, every day,” Peters explained. “While we are on the Walk, we see the homeless, and wouldn’t you know, Tunch and Wolf often know them by name!”

One of the highlights of working with Light of Life is watching people succeed on graduation day from its programs, Peters said. “It is a fantastic day. I know that every time I help a client at Light of Life, my brother is smiling somewhere, and when my feet hit the cold, hard wood in the morning, it means something.”

Peters, also a long-time NCRF Angel, is active in other areas of her community as well, including supporting Dress for Success and Treasure House Fashions, organizations that help women get back on their feet, and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, which raises funds for Autism research.

“It’s a week-long endeavor of classic and antique cars every year that starts with a race, followed by a gala, then a car show mid-week, and culminates with a two-day race on the weekend at a park. Proceeds benefit the Autism Society. I support the car show, and in the past I have sponsored a tent,” Peters said.

The JCR Weekly will run a series of interviews featuring NCRA members who are giving back to their community in addition to an article in the April issue of the JCR.

 

Giving back to the community: An interview with Deborah Weaver

Deborah Weaver receives recognition from the Missouri State Public Defender’s Office for Alaris Litigation’s Dollars for Depositions Program

Last June, NCRA member Deborah Weaver, a freelance court reporter and owner of Alaris Litigation Services in St. Louis, Mo., announced the launch of the Dollars for Depositions Program that pledged $21,000 in support of the Missouri Coalition for the Right to Counsel (MCRC). The MCRC is a nonprofit organization that facilitates and encourages law firms to volunteer their attorneys to represent clients of the Missouri public defender office to help ease the system’s difficult caseload. Through MCRC’s work, young attorneys are able to gain case and trial experiences.

What prompted you to become involved with the MCRC?

The Missouri Public Defender’s office is one of Alaris Litigation’s long-time clients, and we’ve seen firsthand their difficulties and frustrations of managing an overwhelming caseload. Because of tight funding and stretched resources, public defenders are currently only able to depose four percent of cases and take one percent of them to trial, meaning many individuals don’t receive the representation they need and deserve.

When the MCRC was proposed, Alaris was one of the first organizations to raise their hand and say, “Yes, we’ll help!” I was incredibly impressed by MCRC’s mission to bring swifter justice to the indigent defender as well as volunteer efforts of our partner law firms in providing pro bono counsel. Our philosophy at Alaris Litigation is all about providing needed support to our legal system, so this organization is a natural fit.

How long have you been involved in this work?

We’ve been involved with MCRC since the very beginning. We kicked off our involvement with the development of the Dollars for Depositions Program, which will provide up to $21,000 in funding for deposition services. This was something my team and I rallied behind, and we’re proud to be “charter partners” in leading this much-needed change in Missouri’s justice system.

What are some of the other community organizations you support?

For more than 23 years, Alaris has supported the Motion for Kids organization, which is a nonprofit that holds an annual holiday party for children in the foster care system or who have been severely impacted by the criminal justice system. Alaris distributes gifts for the kids at the Santa Stations and helps with visits from Santa.

We’ve supported the Let’s Start program for more than 12 years, packing lunches for children to take on the bus when they go to visit their mothers in prison. We also support the Center for Women in Transition, which provides resources and community support to women who have recently been released from prison.

What are the greatest benefits personally and professionally to being involved in community service activities?

I’m a firm believer in using our unique talents to serve the community in which we live. At Alaris, it’s our privilege to give back to the city that supports my company and my employees. On a personal level, it’s incredibly rewarding to bring hope, assistance, and joy to someone’s life.

Whether we’re helping a defendant finally go to trial with the representation they need, or simply giving kids a merry Christmas, we’re improving their lives for the better, and that’s truly a wonderful thing.

Why is giving back to the community important?

Volunteering is an integral part of me and always has been. I see it as “paying it forward,” using my talents to help make the world a better place one little effort at a time. It’s something everyone should do, no matter how large or small.

What advice would you give to someone who is seeking to become involved in community service activities?

Involvement isn’t something you just do. It’s something you are. You have to want to do it, not because you feel like you have to, but because it’s important to you as a person or an organization. Whether it’s helping break the cycle of incarceration or beautifying your neighborhood, find what inspires you and make it an active part of your life

 

The JCR Weekly will run a series of interviews featuring NCRA members who are giving back to their community in addition to an article in the April issue of the JCR.

Giving back to the community: An interview with Penny Wile

 

Penny Wile and Cora, her therapy dog

Penny Wile, RMR, CRR, owner of Penny Wile Court Reporting in Norfolk, Va., has been a court reporter for more than 30 years. She gives back to the community by volunteering for the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital therapy dog program and her local SPCA. She has also been featured with her therapy dog on her local news station. In January, she hosted her second Woofstock fundraiser event, which collected donations to support the Norfolk SPCA.

What prompted you to become involved with the local SPCA?

My enormous love of animals. There are so many animals in need of loving homes and families in need of affordable veterinary care. The Norfolk SPCA provides education to the community and a trap/release program for spay/neuter, just to name a few of their valuable services.

How long have you been involved in this work?

Woofstock II, held Jan. 13, 2018, was my second Norfolk SPCA fundraiser. We held Woofstock I on April 15, 2016, and raised $2,600 in donations. Woofstock II donations amounted to $4,000. I hire a band for the event, and we have a fun time while collecting donations for the SPCA. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Advertisement for Woofstock II

What other community service activities do you support?

I am also involved in the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital therapy dog program. My English golden retriever, Cora, and I visit staff and patients at the hospital. We both enjoy bringing happiness to others. When I put Cora’s red scarf on, it’s time to “go to work,” and she is eager to go to the hospital and make her rounds. We have been part of the therapy dog program going on two years now. I have also recently been appointed as a member of the City of Norfolk Animal Welfare Board of Review.

What are the greatest benefits personally and professionally to being involved in community service activities?

The greatest benefit to my therapy dog program activities is that I am able to bring happiness to patients and family members at the hospital in a variety of settings. Some families receive comfort from Cora while a family member is gravely ill. Staff working in an extremely stressful environment can relax for a moment while visiting with Cora. It makes me happy to see smiles on the faces of staff, patients, and family members when we come through the hospital.

The greatest benefit to my Woofstock events is that through my business I am able to help the animals and the programs of the Norfolk SPCA by creating a fun evening, filled with great music and friends, all the while collecting much-needed funds for this worthy cause.

Penny Wile and Rob Blizard, executive director of the Norfolk SPCA, on 13News Now – WVEC

Why is giving back to the community important?

Giving back to my community is important to me. I am fortunate that through my success in my court reporting endeavors I am able to donate resources to programs that are important to me. Freelance reporting affords me the flexibility to be able to donate my time to participate in these programs.

What advice would you give to someone who is seeking to become involved in community service activities?

Anyone can become involved in their community. Find something that is important to you, that you are passionate about, and seek out programs in your area; start small and work toward more programs as time permits. As for me, animals are my passion, and helping people and animals through the programs I support humbles me.

 

The JCR Weekly will run a series of interviews featuring NCRA members who are giving back to their community in addition to an article in the April issue of the JCR.

Missouri public defender’s office honors Alaris Litigation and CEO

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyAlaris Litigation, St. Louis, Mo., and its CEO, Debbie Weaver, have been honored by the Missouri State Public Defender’s Office for their Dollars for Depositions program. This initiative supports the efforts of the Missouri Coalition for the Right to Counsel through an ongoing contribution of in-kind deposition services.

Read more.

Giving back to the community: An interview with R. Michael Buie

Possum Talks presentation at the Terrell Unit near Rosharon, Texas

Michael Buie, RPR, CRR, CRC, president and owner of MBA Reporting Services in Plano, Texas, has been a member of NCRA since 1976 and is still a practicing freelance reporter. Throughout his career, he and his wife, Shari, have founded, organized, and participated in several community programs, including:

  • Love in Action for hospitalized children and their siblings
  • The Hearing Heart program, which provides captioning at a local church
  • GED (General Educational Development) classes to inmates

He currently co-teaches an addiction recovery program to inmates at two maximum-security prison units. He also volunteers for Possum Talks, a program he cofounded for incarcerated dads who want to learn how to be faithful fathers from behind bars, in which Buie and his team of 10 volunteers hold six workshops a year throughout north and south Texas.

 

The Possum Talks team poses for a group photo with participant inmates at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas

What prompted you to become involved with the Possum Talks?

I’ve always enjoyed teaching in different venues. In reporting school, I taught academic evening classes and attended full-time day school at McMahon College of Stenotype in Houston. As far as Possum Talks, Shari and I cofounded the organization in 2013. We both had taught addiction recovery to men and women for a couple years and saw firsthand the need to help incarcerated men understand how to be faithful fathers and communicate effectively with their children. There’s a lot of tension exhibited by incarcerated men because they see their children committing many of the same criminal acts, but they feel helpless to do anything about it from behind bars. This results in feelings of aggression, guilt, and hopelessness for many of them. The program is faith-based but structured to encourage men of all faiths or nonfaiths — Judeo-Christian, atheist, Muslim, Satanist, Naturalist, etc. — to value godly principles as the standard for being faithful fathers. We are proud of Possum Talks’ growth in five years. At the one-year mark, in 2014, the program received the Texas Governor’s Award for the most innovative new program in the Texas prison system. Since the program’s inception, Possum Talks has conducted 27 one-day or day-and-a-half workshops in eight different medium- and maximum-security prisons throughout Texas.

How long have you been involved in this work?

I have been involved with teaching inmates since about 2012, first teaching an inmate GED class in math, English, science, social studies, and writing skills. I also co-taught a weekly Bible class in what’s called the SHU, or Secured Housing Unit (maximum security), at Collin County Detention Center for two years. The men of the SHU are confined to a cell 23 hours a day. It was an honor for them to spend that one hour on Thursdays in Bible study with us.

A Possum Talks skit demonstrates communication techniques, at the Boyd Unit near Teague, Texas

What other community service activities do you support?

Shari and I also teach addiction-recovery classes at Buster Cole State Jail and Collin County Detention Center (Fannin and Collin counties) in maximum security. From 1985 to 1996, we both participated in civic outreach for children at what was then the Parkland Memorial Hospital Children’s Unit in Dallas. Shari founded the organization called Your Love in Action, which provided a yearly Christmas program with both corporate and individual donations, like toys, underwear, and health items. The program grew to the point that we filled two FedEx delivery vans, enough to supply hospitalized children (usually burn victims) and their siblings throughout the year. Shari and I, along with our son and daughter, participated as a family in the program for 10 years. I also founded a program called The Hearing Heart in 1996, which provided live CART captioning to individuals who are late-deafened and culturally deaf at a church in Plano, Texas. I and another captioner provided weekly captioning for as many as 20 congregants.

What are the greatest benefits personally and professionally to being involved in community service activities?

Though I’m now over 70 years old and anticipate retirement sometime, I still report as a freelancer and manage my firm. However, now, because of my age, I’m more interested in participating in efforts with eternal value, not just helping relieve social ills.

Why is giving back to the community important?

Giving back to the community is important because 1) it’s the community that provides an environment of peace and security to thrive in as a family and an individual, and 2) according to Matthew 5:16, I’m commanded to give back to the community in such a way that glorifies God, not me. Giving back demonstrates not only positivity to a society in jeopardy but also promotes goodwill and a spirit of cooperation and volunteerism without expectation of benefit or entitlement.

What advice would you give to someone who is seeking to become involved in community service activities?

1) Look at not only your skills as a reporter but 2) your uniqueness as a human being, what makes you unique above and beyond your professional skills, and 3) proactively seek out opportunities to offer these attributes for the good of others. There’s another place in Scripture where the Apostle Paul says that the end result is a resultant peace that transcends all understanding. That’s right where I intend to be during the rest of my reporting career and long afterward.

 

The JCR Weekly will run a series of interviews featuring NCRA members who are giving back to their community in addition to an article in the April issue of the JCR.