Trending: More Business Executives Caught Going to Prison

Sandra Dillon: December 13, 2017


Darin and Sandi Caught Good 2017-12-07

Business Executives Caught For Being Good

I heard a statistic that the top three fears that people have are (1) public speaking, (2) public dancing, and (3) going to prison. If true, I guarantee that the thousands of business executives, who have paused from their work schedules to volunteer with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), would wholeheartedly disagree with that third claim. In fact, I would bet they would say spending a day in prison with PEP men is more fulfilling than the work they do and successes they’ve had.

If you don’t believe me, I’ll let photos tell the stories that words cannot describe. PEP was founded in May 2004 and operates exclusively in the Texas prison system. Their first class started at the Hamilton Unit in Bryan, Texas, and then in 2008 moved to the Cleveland Correctional Facility, north of Houston, which is where many of my colleagues and friends volunteer.Graduates of this program receive a certificate from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, but the PEP men aren’t learning only business skills. They will tell you the most challenging part of the program is Leadership Academy, where they do a deep personal dive into character and come out transformed men. The program starts with leadership, because people cannot be successful in business long-term without having a solid foundation of character underpinning their decisions and actions.

If you want to learn more about this program which is transforming men, families, and communities, I’d love to introduce you to the PEP Chief Empowerment Officer (CEO), Bert Smith, and his senior leadership staff. Even better, I would love to take you to prison, so you can hear firsthand testimonies from the men and servant leader graduates. Ask me how you can get yourself a Get Into Jail FREE card.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership, business development, and sales.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all their colleagues.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.

God’s Message: People Have a Deep Desire to Be Known and Accepted For Who They Are!


Excerpt from LWI El Salvador 2017 Mission Journal

October 12, 2017


As many of my mission followers know, God always shows me a revelation, a truth, or provides a message that I am to take forward from each short-term trip.  This year was no different. We came to drill a well, and in return, God continued to share with me ideas and concepts to take forward.

Last year’s trip to El Salvador was significant, because it was the final message in a book that God was writing for me.  It culminated into the concept of World Changers on Mission (WCoM). As I approached this trip, I was curious whether there would be a message, and if so, would it be the beginning of a new book or perhaps its own short story.  As is God’s way, He never shares the entire plan with me.  As He impressed upon me a few years ago with a vision: if He gave me the entire plan, I would have nothing to look forward to.

IMG_2737You ask, “What did God impress upon you this trip in El Salvador?” I experienced firsthand how the prisoners and community looked at me and how some of them hugged me.  They all wanted a future–something to look forward to.  Many of the kids, teachers, and parents wanted to come to America, a land where they believe dreams can come true.  We, who hold the power and resources, have a have a responsibility to honor others by truly seeing, knowing, and accepting others despite our differences in circumstances and cultures.

I am now a life and leadership coach.  I feel like I have been one my entire life, living it even without the formal training and title until this year.  I graduated in May with my Master’s in Human Services Counseling, Life Coaching, and put out my shingle under Shine Crossings.  Although I envisioned working with both individuals and businesses, the clientele who have reached out have primarily been friends, colleagues, and friends of friends.  I cannot tell you how much joy I get when I see my clients flourish, achieve their dreams, and improve their lives and relationships.  I really do feel like I’m living my calling.

IMG_3333In many ways my mission of life coaching is linked to the message of this mission.  Life coaching allows me to enter into a relationship where a person can be seen, known, and accepted.  If there is a connection between my coaching mission and the mission field, where do a take life coaching?  God told me many years ago that He has no borders, and neither should I.  I have a suspicion that I may need to take life and leadership coaching outside the walls of America.

IMG_3294Ivy keeps coming to mind.  Is it coincidence or plan that I met this self-taught English-speaking teacher, who lives in a rural farming community in El Salvador?  What is the likelihood that Ivy is fluent in English with no one to speak with until our team comes to drill a well on the school property?  Was this a divine encounter? Was I predestine to meet Ivy?  What will Ivy and I do together?

Although I prepared one, I never had the opportunity to give my devotional as other team members stepped up to share what was on their hearts.  What I planned to share was the life Scripture that God first put on my heart during my first mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya in 2013.  This Scripture was the intended message that the mission team was to teach at the local high school we visited:

Jeremiah 29:11 which says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Then a few months before this trip, God strongly laid down on my heart:

John 15:5 which says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

I see how the Scriptures connect and build upon one another.  Jeremiah first declares the truth: there is a plan, a plan for a future filled with hope.  John then declares how I must walk out the plan for it to come to fruition.  I believe it is our human nature to create our own plan and exercise our own free will to execute that plan.  Our ears become muted to God’s direction and pearls of wisdom, so we end up relying more on our own foolish ways.  It takes concentration and effort to fight my own free will and follow God’s plan for my life.

God’s intended message for me is not crystal clear, so I will continue to pray for its clarity.  If you have read through all my entries, you will notice several highlighted phrases that resonated with me throughout the trip.  I believe the bigger picture lies in these puzzle pieces:

  • God brings together His team
  • People want to be seen by others
  • We live out purpose when we live in community
  • Make time to be in relationship
  • God’s dreams for us are always bigger than we can imagine
  • I am not the puzzle, but only one piece of a bigger vision
  • God never leaves us; He never forsakes us
  • People have a deep desire to be known and accepted for who they are, not necessarily, for what they have done

Amen!

Come Party and Learn More About the PEP Revolution

Sandra Dillon: October 22, 2017


PEP Roundup 2You are invited to pony up and party at the PEP Round Up where you can learn more about how the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) transforms community.  Meet men like Richard, who is now a Christian leader of his wife and son and who owns a business that operates in two major Texas cities. Before entering PEP, Richard was incarcerated, gang affiliated, and a weapon-carrying drug dealer who had 7 felony convictions.   PEP was integral to transforming Richard’s life and now his family and community thrive from his life-changing PEP Roundup 3PEP experience. Richard is just one example of men transformed through the leadership academy, business plan program, and the executive volunteers who partner with these men.

PEP had another record breaking years in 2016.  PEP graduate recidivism continues to remain less than 7% as compared to the general prison population of > 50% after 3 years.  PEP graduates have achieved 100% employment after 90 days upon release.  Seventy-eight new businesses were formed with over 6 reporting more than $1,000,000 in revenue.

PEP Roundup 1The first PEP Round Up on October 29, 2017 is a fundraiser and social event to keep the program growing so it can serve more men.  This nonprofit organization runs solely on the generous donations of companies, individuals, and grants.  Although the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) fully supports this program because of its unprecedented impact, there is no federal or state funding for this program that is rehabilitating men into contributing citizens.

Enjoy live music, armadillo and pony races, games, silent auction, and an art show while dining on mouth-watering BBQ.  Converse with some of the PEP graduates who have started businesses and have some kick-up-your-heels fun! Individual tickets are $100 (tax deductible).  Although the Howdy and Hoop-de-Doo starts at 5 pm, you and your family are welcome to arrive at the George Ranch between 3 – 5 pm for a tour of the historic homes. Come join me on October 29th and change a life!


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all its employees.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.

Be an Investor in the Change You Want to See Happen

Sandra Dillon: September 18, 2017


2017-08-01 Sandi 1

Jamar and Sandi discuss his business plan

Who wants to pay less taxes for Welfare, Medicaid, and housing the incarcerated? Who wants less crime and fear of crime? Who wants to pay less in insurance premiums, because claims are down?  I bet everyone said “yes” to those three questions. Wait, there’s more! I’ve only listed the savings.

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Darin giving Andrea feedback on his plan

Who wants to add taxpayers to the economic base?  Who wants to see dignity restored?  Who wants to see families reunited and thriving?  These results are the opportunities for growth.  If any of this sounds attractive, I’d ask you to consider an investment in a business called the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), which might return the highest ROI in your outreach portfolio.  As a savvy investor, I’ve been pleased with its performance over the last 4 years. Recidivism rates for the general prison population exceed 50% after three years post-release, yet PEP graduates boast less than 7%.

2017-08-01 Sandi 3

Sandi sharing ministry information with Leo

My portfolio strategy is to build equity in our society by investing my money and time in PEP men who are committed to turn their lives around and give back to their families and communities.  PEP is the catalyst and the full-time partner to these men who work through the intensive, character development leadership academy, followed by business skill development and business plan competition for the coveted prize of bragging rights.  The program culminates with graduates walking across the stage in cap and gown to accept a diploma certificate from Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

Although PEP business volunteers enter prison to teach and encourage these men, I walk away from each event inspired by their hard work, dedication, and personal growth month after month. Surprisingly, it’s not all about business. Many of these men ask me about my mission ministry and explain how they plan to bless others with the profits from their businesses.  Statistics show over 78 new businesses have been formed by PEP graduates upon their release, with more than six reporting $1,000,000 in annual revenue.  For five consecutive years, PEP has reported 100% employment for program participants within 90 days of release.

Get Into JailPEP has so many ways for the business leader to invest their time and resources: work side-by-side these men in prison while they refine their plans, be a business advisor, host a transition house dinner, teach at e-School, and hire the services of a PEP graduate/business owner.

If you are interested in learning more, I would love to spend the day with you in prison and can get you a “Get into Jail FREE” card.  I have connections!  I guarantee you will have an unforgettable experience, will make friends with other business executives, and be richly rewarded with a personal handwritten thank you card from the men you coach. These men need mentors and role models of servant leaders.  Will you be that leader? If PEP does not speak to your heart or talents, I encourage you to seek out and invest your treasure in whatever change you want to see happen—be that servant leader.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all its employees.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.

Giving To A Vision

vision signIn the non-profit world, many people struggle with how to secure resources, namely raise money, to support their cause. Despite a ministry’s worthiness, many struggle or never reach their full stride due to inability to secure volunteer time or funding.   Why does raising money seem so daunting?  Although God is the ultimate resource provider, why do some non-profit leaders receive an outpouring of funds while others not?  Although most situations cannot be attributable to only one reason, I would propose a significant contributor is the lack of a leader’s clear, compelling, and well-communicated vision for the ministry.  I believe people are inherently generous and predisposed to give of their time and resources, if the right opportunity is presented the right way at the right time. When done right, I expect people to respond with joyful hearts and generous giving.

One of the key responsibilities of the leader is to ensure the ministry or non-profit has a powerful vision, strategy, and plan that can be effectively communicated to potential donors.  From a Biblical perspective, Christians are called by God to steward their resources and use them to invest in Kingdom opportunities.  Therefore, a responsible donor would logically expect to understand the vision, the strategy/execution plan, and how the ministry will be held accountable.  If a leader cannot article the vision and supporting details, a donor is likely to assume the resources will not be well stewarded.

When I interviewed for a full-time fundraising position at MedSend, the CEO enlightened me that those who have significant wealth feel an overwhelming burden of responsibility to give back and are actively looking for causes where their donations can make a big impact.  They want to make a significant contribution to the world and want to invest their money in a vision that is greater than paying someone’s bills.  Think about it.  What criteria do you use for giving?  Aside from tithing, people give to people not organizations, specifically to people who have visions.

If you are fundraising for a cause for which you are passionate, take the time to paint a clear and engaging picture of your vision, so you can help your donors understand how their efforts will release joy and power.  Make it big!  Stretch your dreaming! If you can create a vision that you could accomplish on your own, it is likely not from God.  God does not dream that small.

The Scarlet Letter “F”


In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fictional setting of Boston in 1642, a woman named Hester Prynne must stand for three hours on a public scaffold wearing the scarlet “A” on her dress.  For what purpose?  So that she could be publicly shamed and humiliated for adultery!  For those not familiar with the classic novel The Scarlet Letter, adultery was against the law of the land and church but also an unforgivable sin whose sentence lived on until death.  Fast forward 375 years when adultery does not carry the same legal or societal stigma and where most surveys reveal that it is more common for husbands and wives to cheat than not over the course of their marriages.

Perhaps because adultery is so common, we have put the Scarlet “A” back into our pocket and now sew on a Scarlet “F”, as in felony, on every shirt lapel leaving prison.  Oh, we may not be as obvious about it in this politically sensitive world, but how we treat ex-felons, who have served time for their crime, speaks volume in what we think of these men and women.  Through our laws, community policies/practices and personal actions we have labeled these released prisoners (a.k.a. felons) with “F” as in “Failure.”   Did you know that when a prisoner is released from prison he gets the clothes on his back, $50, and a bus ticket to anywhere?  What is he supposed to do with those resources for his first night’s lodging and food?  Let’s get real.  What do you think happens next?  With no support he will likely connect with old friends who will help him back into illegal activity to put food in his mouth and a roof over his head.  And so the cycle begins again!  Statistics show that 50% of felons return to prison after 3 years and 75% after 5 years.  These are just the felons who get caught.  Why are these statistics so surprising?  They shouldn’t be.

What are the hurdles for felons who want to legally re-integrate into community?  Well, he has difficulty finding a place to live, because he doesn’t own a home.  He can’t live in an apartment complex, because management discriminates against all felons regardless of the crime, and probably, he can’t stay with relatives where he has worn out his welcome long before his prison sentence.  He can’t get a job, because he doesn’t have any decent clothes for an interview, but if he Sandi 1 Class 27did, when he checked the felony box on the application he is immediately disqualified.  What would you do?  I expect you are saying to yourself, “Well, he shouldn’t have gotten himself involved in crime to begin with?” Honestly, there is a part of me that wants to sympathize with that statement, but the other part of me knows a different story.  My other half will suggest that the difference between you and an ex-felon can be the simple fact of just getting caught.  How many times have you had one too many drinks, been legally intoxicated, and yet chose to drive home?  For those who made it home safely, we breathe a sigh of relief—no one was hurt or killed.  If you didn’t make it home, you might be in prison for intoxicated manslaughter.

So, you may think, “I see your point; it could have been me, but it wasn’t. Felons are not my problem.”  My reply is, “If you live in this country, it is your problem, because incarceration affects each and every one of us.”  Did you know the average annual cost to hold an inmate exceeds $30,000?  Did you know the real cost to the taxpayer is multiples of that when you factor in lost tax revenue on wages, welfare and aid given to families of incarcerated men, and damages from crime.  For those who are killed or harmed during a criminal act, I cannot put an estimate to the value of life and limb, but at a minimum, lost wages, funeral expenses, and medical bills could be tallied in the total cost.

So what can be done about this problem?  Well, the solution is not by any means easy or short-lived, but we can start by building awareness of the issue, investing in effective transformational programs, and crushing the felon stereotype.   The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP, http://www.pep.org) is giving prisoners the opportunity to change their lives for the betterment of their families and communities.  PEP sees the value of these incarcerated men, and along with other business volunteers, they all come along side those prisoners who are doing the hard work to transform themselves.  This program initially focuses on building authentic manhood and servant leadership and follows with building skills and training in business entrepreneurship.  When program graduates are released from prison, they have access to transitional living and support to help integrate back into society.  Over the past 3 years I have been an executive PEP volunteer and have seen transformed lives and returned dignity in the men we serve.

On April 1, 2016 I honorably participated in a kickoff session for another PEP class who were entering the authentic manhood segment of the program.  Today I received a batch of photos with thank you cards from those men with whom I had the privilege of spending the day in prison.  Yes, they teach these men how to write handwritten thank you cards, a much appreciated and overlook form of business etiquette.  When you see how hard these men work for their future, you can’t help but be inspired to partner with them in their walk.  If yoThank you cardu were wondering whether this program works, recidivism is < 7% after 3 years for those graduating from this program. For the fifth consecutive year 100% of the graduates secured their first job within 90 days.  Since PEP’s launch in 2010, 211 businesses have been started with 6 now generating over $1 million/year revenue.  That’s not failure—that spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S!

PEP is a non-profit organization operating only through donations and no government financial assistance.  The local Texas state correctional facilities welcome this program, because it works!  We can only hope that one day, the federal and state governments will fund and incorporate these concepts into the prison system as a whole.  You may not be in a position to volunteer your time or talents or to donate to this worthwhile program, but you can change the way you think about a felon.  You can start to break the felony stigma. Don’t rush to pin the “F” letter on a felon’s collar.  Ask questions.  Learn his story.  Offer support in a meaningful way.  Even the act of listening and empathizing shows compassion and can make one feel valued as a human being.  Like every one of us who has made a mistake, we hope to be judged not for who we were but for who we are actively working to be!  Embrace the PEP Revolution!


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a business, life, and marital coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She now coaches others in how to develop and execute their life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.