(Campaign Progress: $163,692 Raised on $200,000 Goal)
In December of 2013, Reach received a check from the Department of the Treasury. Though confusing at first, we eventually figured out that it came from a person incarcerated in the federal prison system. The check was modest, but given wages provided for prison work, it was clear that this gentleman had donated many hours – perhaps even months – of his wages.
After doing some research, I found his name: Mr. Ronald Toms. Originally from DC, Mr. Toms was serving a life sentence. He would never come home. I wrote to him, but he never responded. While I appreciated this mysterious and kind gesture, I moved on.
Then, just days ago, I got a phone call. “Mark, this is Ronald Toms. I gave you a small donation a few years ago, and you wrote to thank me. Well, I was granted clemency by President Obama, and I just came home about 90 days ago. I want to know how I might be able to help.”
I was shocked and excited. We spoke briefly, and I promised to call him back when I returned to the office (he’ll hear from me tomorrow). We’ll talk about how he might be able to help, and I’ll do my best to connect him to other organizations that might benefit from the story he has to tell.
But, this part of his story is already spreading. A close friend of mine (who is a consistent and generous Reach supporter) worked on clemency issues for the Obama administration. I sent him a quick text sharing the story and telling him that his work at the White House really mattered. I thought that would be the end of it.
He asked if he could share the story with some colleagues. “Sure,” I said, without much thought.
Well, the story was shared and shared again. And today, inspired by Mr. Toms, Sally Yates, former Deputy Attorney General, made a $5,000 contribution to our #AlwaysThere campaign.
She wrote, “This donation is made in honor of Ronald Toms. By donating his wages earned while in prison, and then volunteering to help Reach now that he has been released, Mr. Toms sets a powerful example for all to follow.”
Mr. Toms has already helped, and we look forward to finding ways to help him give back to the community in any way possible. He became a donor during his time in federal prison. And, to this day, I still don’t know how he learned of Reach.
But, when I meet him in the next couple weeks, I’ll be sure to ask.