Overcoming the social stigma of prison incarceration is fraught with obstacles, from finding work and housing to adjusting to life back with one’s family. Compounding the situation is the fact that many who have spent time behind bars are often members of a multi-generational cycle of non-functioning families.

To lend a helping hand during the transition back to society, hospitality industry veteran Dianne Davis, owner of Broken Arrow, Okla.-based TulNet Meetings and Events, and her husband donate their time and her meetings expertise to get ex-cons back on their feet and ready to contribute to society and their families.

Davis and her husband, Richard Welch, volunteer once a week with Wings of Freedom, a nonprofit 501(c)3 faith-based sober-living residential organization that aids people coming out of incarceration, homelessness, domestic violence and drug abuse.

“My husband and I both have what we call a calling, to help people that are broken and hurting,” Davis said. “Many people are not very sympathetic about people in these circumstances, but if people knew the backstory of some of these people they might not think that way.”

Some of the activities Davis and her husband participate in are creating baskets filled with sheets, towels, toiletries, paper towels, toilet paper, bus passes and other items, so when people check in they have items from the very beginning to help them get started on the journey of their new life.

“The hardest thing for people coming out of incarceration is to find work and a place to live,” Davis said. “They’re able to learn how to earn money, set a monthly budget and participate in a 12-step program and a relationship program. For a lot of them it will be the first time they’ve done anything like that, because they were born into this life. Somebody has to get involved to stop this cycle. You may not be able to change the world, but maybe you can change your little corner of it.”

Davis’ experience as a meeting and event planner has also translated into her running the program’s graduation ceremonies every few months, during which family members can attend. She also organizes movie nights with popcorn and soda.

“Some of these people don’t have a concept of even how to have fun without involving drugs and alcohol, so we show them how to have fun without having that part involved,” she said.

In turn, the benefits Davis and her husband receive have transformed their lives.

“It’s really changed me,” she said. “Their children are in foster care, and they slowly get their kids back, and the family grows together. It’s exciting to be a part of that.

““Find what calls your name,” Davis continued, “because something does.”

To make a tax-deductible donation to Wings of Freedom, visit www.wingsoffreedomok.com.

Paying It Forward
Here are some organizations making a difference:

  • The Hyatt Regency Dallas, through a partnership with Clean the World, collects used toiletries from guest rooms. These are then donated, recycled and distributed to those in need in 30 countries around the world.
  • Hawaii’s Sheraton Kauai Resort launched a new program to benefit Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children. The resort will donate rental proceeds from one of its eight private, poolside bungalows overlooking the resort’s Ocean Pool and beachfront to the center.
  • Bonita, Fla.’s Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort hosted a 1980s-themed Yoga on the Lawn and Islamorada Beer Tasting fundraiser to benefit two Lee and Collier women’s shelters. The Coconut Point chapter of Women@Hyatt, a philanthropic, educational and networking group of associates at Hyatt Hotels & Resorts worldwide, organized the event.