Cynthia Drawhorn of Bridge City and Jamie Essex of Orange were presented with the “Most Innovative Program” award for the “Life In Focus” A.C.T.S. (Alcohol Chemical Treatment Series) class during the Governor’s 2016 Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award program today.

The award was presented by Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Dale Wainwright and TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston during a ceremony held in Austin.

“The unwavering dedication of these volunteers to help others succeed is truly inspiring,” said Livingston. “The impact of their efforts will be felt across the state of Texas for many years to come.”

“Volunteering is not a choice for the men and women being recognized today,” said Wainwright. “They see it as a responsibility and for that we’re thankful.”

Ms. Drawhorn said for many years it had been her desire to offer faith-based substance abuse programming and church services for TDCJ offenders. A conversation with the chaplain of the LeBlanc Unit in Beaumont about the “Life In Focus” A.C.T.S. class lead to its introduction to offenders there.

Ms. Essex believes that “guidance is important for our youth.” She noticed that many of the young men whom she worked with did not have someone to reach out to for a helping hand. She says the “Life In Focus” A.C.T.S. class provides that helping hand.

At the end of March, 335 offenders had graduated from the program.

When not volunteering at TDCJ, Ms. Drawhorn is active with outreach programs at her church, the Faith Tabernacle Apostolic Church in Port Arthur. She also enjoys spending time with her six grandchildren, going RV camping and fishing.

Ms. Essex loves to exercise when she is not around her eight grandchildren, raising chickens or working with the youth at the Faith Tabernacle Apostolic Church, too.

The “Life In Focus” A.C.T.S. class is one of six organizations and 15 individuals from across the state recognized for their efforts to help inmates and those who are on parole or probation. They donate many hours of their personal time every year with the goal of changing the lives of convicted offenders, and aiding and comforting their victims. 

In FY2015, there were 22,000 volunteers who provided a total of 262,442 hours of service.