For more than a decade, a dedicated group of volunteers from First Baptist Church in Edinburg, called “My Brother’s Keepers,” served TJJD’s Evins campus, mentoring youth and assisting with holiday and faith events.
Their long-term commitment made a big difference in the lives of youth at Evins Regional Juvenile Center, said Community Relations Coordinator Fidel Garcia.
During the past two years, as COVID constrained opportunities for in-person volunteering and mentoring, many of the volunteers with My Brother’s Keepers shifted their focus to working with youth within their own church congregation and supporting adult prisoners in Texas with a mail mentoring program. After taking on these tasks, they decided to suspend their program at Evins.
As we bid farewell, we salute My Brother’s Keepers for their heartfelt service to the youth at TJJD.
“What impressed me the most with this group is that Carolyn and Kenny Faires, the team leaders, always had a lesson during each visit to present to the youth,” Garcia said.
The group “adopted” their first dorm of 24 youth at Evins in 2009, Garcia said, and committed to throwing monthly birthday parties for that group. They gathered several volunteers from their church, naming themselves My Brother’s Keepers, and ensured that every month all youth in their adopted dorm, especially those who had a birthday to celebrate, received home-cooked food, cake, chips, dips, and drinks.
The volunteers feted the youth with music, skits, and read some scripture during their visits.
My Brother’s Keepers always looked out for the needs of the youth and when the kids were ready to leave Evins, the volunteers helped them start with fresh outlook and a fresh outfit. They made sure that any youth leaving the dorm who needed a backpack, shoes or any type of clothing would get these items before they set out.
The team of volunteers also organized “sock drives” at their church to benefit the Community Closet, a room stocked with clothing for Evins’ youth to choose from as they transitioned back into the community.
During Christmas, My Brother’s Keepers gave every boy in their adopted dorm a $15 gift deposit into their trust account. The youth could use that money for extra call time to their family or to buy snacks and other items from the canteen store.
During the Thanksgiving holiday, My Brother’s Keepers rounded up church members to donate toward purchasing turkeys for the boys and their families to eat during visitation.
The group strongly believed that connecting youth to the community is important for rehabilitation, and they invited Evins’ teens who qualified to go off campus to visit their church and join activities there.
For non-Catholic youth who requested to be baptized, My Brother’s Keepers coordinated and taught baptismal classes and arranged for the church elders to visit Evins to perform the baptism.
In addition, members of their group regularly mentored youth one-on-one, approaching this task with energy and dedication.
One young man whom the Faires mentored transferred to the adult correctional system to a unit in Houston, Garcia recalled. But the Faires continued their visits with him, even though the round trip was more than 800 miles.
The couple also kept in contact by mail and phone calls.
“We will miss all their help at TJJD,” Garcia said, “and just wanted to say thank you for the many years of service to Evins.”
Photos by Fidel Garcia: Top, Kenny Faires baptizes a youth; Faires leads a music event; Faires mentors a youth.