Heroes and Villains, Part 3

Many of the local Buffalo bloggers wrote about the fundraiser for Buffalo police officer and hero Patricia Parete that was held on March 31st at the Buffalo Convention Center.  It was well-attended and raised lots of money for a very worthy cause.  Officer Parete will be a prisoner in her own body for the rest of her life, and several of my colleagues with whom I’ve spoken hope that her attacker goes to prison for the rest of his.

Unbeknownst to virtually everyone in attendance, there was another fundraiser quietly going on directly below the Parete party.  This one was the Phoenix Award Dinner sponsored by Cephas, Kairos, Bissonette House and several others.  You have most likely only peripherally heard of these organizations and probably have no idea what they do.

These organizations help prison inmates, parolees and ex-cons to rebuild their lives onto the straight and narrow.  They encompass several religious and social organizations whose ultimate goal is to help keep those who have paid for their crimes from ever going down that path again.  The recidivism rate for the inmate population at large is around 70%.  For those inmates who have gone through Cephas program and others like it, the rate is around 30%, so these programs are very successful in doing what prison itself fails to do:  reform the inmates’ lives.

These programs have their own heroes.  Father Joe Bissonette (for whom the Bissonette House was named) and Sister Karen Klimczak both lost their lives because of their devotion to this cause.

I found it ironic that these two fundraisers were held at the same place on the same night.  My guess is that many at the Parete fundraiser would have been appalled had they known that someday the guy who shot officer Parete might be counseled and aided by the people at the party below them.  Hopefully, most would understand the greater good that Cephas and the others represent.

Officer Parete deserves all the support that this community can give her.  So do those inmates that are truly trying to straighten out their lives.  For those who would prefer that convicted criminals be left to rot in their cells, I ask that they at least glimpse at the web sites I listed above.  The people who devote their lives to this cause help bring a little hope to an otherwise hopeless institution.

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