She turned her life around. Now she's helping former prisoners do the same.

Kim Burkhardt was once a troubled teenager headed straight toward incarceration. But when she did end up in jail, it wasn’t as an inmate.

Instead, she was there as a college student, volunteering at prisons.

But she couldn’t have gotten there alone. As a teenager in the early 1990s, she was lucky to have gotten the right support to get her back on track. And that’s exactly why Burkhardt now focuses on prison reentry — helping give people who have been incarcerated a second chance.


Photo by Matt Popovich/Unsplash.

Today, her commitment is a huge one: Burkhardt is executive director of the National Network of Prison Nonprofits (NC4RSO), an umbrella coalition connecting multiple prison nonprofits from around the country.

That wasn’t always her plan, though.

In 2001, Burkhardt finished a master's degree in Business Administration from Regis University with an entirely different goal: working as a market research consultant. And for a while, she was self-employed, running a market research business.

Image via Kim Burkhardt, used with permission.

But during that time, she never stopped volunteering at jails and prisons. After 13 years of doing do, she had a realization: There was no national network to connect prison nonprofits to one another.

“You know when you get an idea in your head and it just won’t go away?” she says. This was one of those ideas.

And after the economy crashed in 2008 and her business went down with it, she put her MBA skills to good use and pursued her passion project: NC4RSO.

Founded in 2010, NC4RSO helps volunteer-led prison programs coordinate their efforts and share resources.

Say you want to volunteer in a prison program in Seattle. You can get in touch with NC4RSO, and they can set you up with a member organization like Freedom Project, which focuses on nonviolent communication for prisoners.

Or, say two different member organizations are working on performing arts in prison, like Prison Performing Arts in Missouri. NC4RSO can help coordinate a sharing of resources and ideas.

NC4RSO also conducts research that demonstrates the vital need for these programs. For example, their 2011 prison mentoring study showed that 100% of participants who stayed out of prison had mentoring figures to guide them.

Why focus on prison reentry? The numbers, listed on NC4RSO’s website, speak for themselves. The United States has an enormous incarceration level, with only 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world's prison population. 95% of people in jail will be released, and the struggles they face finding employment affect their entire communities.

Photo by Christian Bardenhorst/Unsplash.

At the heart of the nonprofit, though, are the phenomenal organizations it helps to support.

28 organizations from 11 different states have joined NC4RSO since its inception. The way Burkhardt sees it, they’re the ones doing the work, while she and her team provide support.

But, thanks to her efforts, those hard-working member groups are also gaining a public voice and working with more support behind them, so it goes both ways.

Though she never expected to use her master's degree from Regis University for this purpose, she’s really glad to have developed her project management and communication skills.

Earning her graduate degree also gave her confidence, which undoubtedly informs her fearless approach to this work.

Her story is a perfect example of how life can take you in unexpected directions. On this path, she’s helping prisoners and former prisoners whose humanity is forgotten by the rest of the world too often.

Image via iStock.

Burkhardt said that a prison chaplain once summed up NC4RSO’s impact perfectly, telling a group of volunteers, “You humanize this place.”

That alone, Burkhardt explains, is a vital part of building resiliency among people who return to society with so much vulnerability.

Burkhardt and other prison volunteers have witnessed that impact time and time again. She remembers one woman who returned to jail as an inmate several years after they first met.

The woman was surprised to see her again.

“You’re still here,” she said. “Oh ... somebody cares.”

More
True
Regis University
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

Most Shared
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

Keep Reading Show less
Family