The Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Volunteer Service Award was awarded to a McKinney couple on Friday.
Shari and Michael Buie look like any other couple, they have two children and four granddaughters. However, spending time with their family is not the only thing this couple enjoys doing. Every year the Buies spend much of their time trying to better the lives of inmates and those who are on parole or probation.
The Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Olive Bell, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston presented the "Most Innovative Program Award" to the McKinney couple.
During the award ceremony held in Austin, 15 other individuals and six organizations were recognized for their help to change the life's of people involved in the criminal justice system.
"These men and women give their time not for monetary reward," said Livingston. "They volunteer because they have a personal passion in seeing others succeed. We are grateful for their selfless dedication."
The couple created a program called "Possum Talks," which focuses on helping inmates cope with the struggles of being an incarcerated parent. The name derived from the idea that men tend to act defensive when they are approached, just like possums do when a person gets near them.
This program is a two-day workshop were offenders are given the tools and principles needed to maintain a relationship with their children while incarcerated. Once an offender completes the program a graduation ceremony follows.
The program conducts a follow-up process that evaluates the effectiveness of the program. The program has been successful at the Travis State Jail, the Eastham Unit and is now being offered to inmates at the Huntsville Unit.
The Buies are among some 21,000 volunteers who make 145,000 visits to a criminal justice institution to help offenders.