A Season of Gratitude: Gordon Philanthropies Host Annual Book Recording Event at Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers

 

Gordon Philanthropies and a group of stellar volunteers participated in what has now become an annual tradition, an intimate reading event for the men and women serving time behind bars in Los Angeles County.

 

Gordon Philanthropies, a private philanthropic foundation, provided dads and grandfathers, serving time the opportunity to express their Thanksgiving wishes to their children through an audio recording. The foundation holds this event during the holidays to help relieve feelings of isolation and sorrow due to the distance between incarcerated individuals and their loved ones, particularly, during the holiday season.

By doing so, the book audio recording captures and immortalizes the loving voice of a father reading this year’s selected book Let’s Be Thankful, Paw Patrol, which will be delivered to their loved ones before Thanksgiving. The recording is then mailed to the child of the incarcerated father accompanied by a handwritten letter and a copy of the book to read along with their father’s tender voice.

Take a moment to step back and simply imagine grown men, many covered in tattoos, animatedly reading a book for their children- it is in brief moments such as these that it is possible to see the inner child that still resides in each of these men as they read aloud with excitement. For many of the incarcerated men and women, being able to read a book to their child is not a common practice and a rare gift for both them and their child.

However, as this annual tradition gains traction, one of the biggest challenges the foundation encounters every year is finding a book that can meet these incarcerated individuals’ reading levels, which at many times, is barely at a second or third-grade level. During this year’s event, there was a man who asked to speak to the director in private and asked, “Ma’am, can you tell me more about what I will do with the book?” The director explained how he would read the book aloud, and that a volunteer would record his voice, and then the book and audio recording would be mailed directly to his child. The man continued, “I’m embarrassed. I can’t read, but I want my daughter to receive the book, and for her to know that I am thinking of her. Can you do this for me?”

The director responded by saying, “With pleasure, thank you for the love you have for your daughter.” With tears in his eyes, the man expressed his deep appreciation for this opportunity.

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 70% of all incarcerated adults cannot read at a fourth-grade level, “meaning they lack the reading skills to navigate many everyday tasks or hold down anything but lower [paying] jobs.” Information like this is riveting and demonstrates the need for literacy now more than ever.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), and Inmate Services Bureau, have been amazing partners in working with Gordon Philanthropies on the reading/audio recordings and endeavor to create children’s libraries across different facilities. Their warm reception to these programs has proven to be emblematic of the Department’s commitment to support the men and women who are incarcerated.

Gordon Philanthropies Executive Director Sylvia Beanes said, “The kindness and professionalism of the men and women serving under Sheriff Robert Luna has been a wonderful experience and speaks for their dedication to working in partnership with the community.”

In addition to the support of LASD, the help of volunteers has been instrumental to the success of these events. Gordon Philanthropies has been fortunate to have wonderful volunteers who graciously gave up arguably our most valuable commodity, time, to help us record the voices of men from Men’s Central and Twin Towers. One of the most recognizable volunteers is Judge Craig Mitchell, founder of Skid Row Marathon which was developed into a documentary in 2017, and who is currently running for district attorney. For this event, Judge Mitchell came solely as a volunteer to give from his heart, as he has done for many decades. Even with many obligations to support his campaign, Judge Mitchell generously gave up his time to join us for this event.

This Thanksgiving season, if for whatever reason you might find it difficult to fill your heart with gratitude, please take a moment to remember our incarcerated brothers and sisters. Those who will be unable to have the gift of sharing a table with their loved ones. We ask that you think of their children who, unfortunately, will not have a mother or father at home to spend the holiday season by their side. During this season of gratitude, we reflect on the small things we overlook in our daily lives that tend to be the biggest blessings of all.

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