Ignatian Volunteer Bill Stieglitz “mans” the front desk and teaches Life Skills classes to clients of OAR of Fairfax, an organization in Northern Virginia whose mission is “to rebuild lives and break the cycle of crime with opportunities, alternatives, and resources for offenders and their families to create a safer community”. OAR clients are men and women who have been released from the Adult Detention Center in Fairfax, VA. The organization provides a variety of programs to support these individuals and welcome them back to the community.
OAR of Fairfax is grateful to the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and to Bill for supporting its mission. “Our funds are limited. Without volunteers like Bill, the organization itself would literally crumble,” says Lyla Novakowski, their Volunteer Coordinator.
“Bill is my right-hand man,” Lyla continues. “Without Bill there are a lot of things we wouldn’t be able to do. I feel he really makes us more accountable as an organization because he is so passionate. We’ve always held ourselves to a high standard of integrity. His personality has raised the bar for us as an organization.”
Bill’s work at OAR addresses a pressing need. Lyla shares some statistics, “65 million people in the US have a criminal background. That is 1 in 4 adults. The number of people impacted is tremendous.”
“The big overall mission of OAR is to help people get back into society and decrease recidivism. There are great benefits to the individuals and to society,” Bill explains.
Bill works at the front desk two days a week, where he is the first person clients see when they arrive. “When people come in, I do everything I can to take care of them and to refer them to the programs and staff members who can serve their specific needs. I give out clothes, food, bus tokens for them to get back home, do whatever I can,” he describes.
“The front desk is very customer-centric, very interactive. Bill has been able to communicate warmth and compassion to each client, which is critical. He’s always looking for the best solution for each client. He truly cares about our work and our clients and it shows with every interaction,” Lyla says.
Bill also teaches weekly Life Skills classes to twenty to twenty five men and women on work-release. Topics include Decision-Making, Communications, Budget Management, and Mental Health.
“What’s so valuable about what Bill teaches,” says Lyla, “is that people can take the lessons and apply them immediately, while they are working. It helps smooth the process of transition for them.”
“We serve a very diverse population,” Bill says. “We get all ages, all nationalities, from all social stratums. Most are poor but some have fairly decent financial backgrounds but for some reason have run afoul of the system. It’s a population that really needs some help. They’re probably not too well viewed in the community as a whole, and probably need more help.”
“Pope Francis says that we should pay attention to the poor. This is a part of the poor that really needs attention paid to them,” Bill says.