While working as a volunteer with Kairos Prison Ministry at the George Beto Unit prison, Mary Carter discovered that formerly incarcerated men were lacking nice-quality, well-fitting clothing. So she did something about it.
In 2005, Carter established One Man’s Treasure, a nonprofit dedicated to providing clothing to newly released prisoners. She developed a clothes closet with a mission to hand out menswear suitable for everyday needs, job interviews, and employment.
Based out of Rockwall, the 501c3 organization now distributes a set of clothing to former inmates that consists of five shirts, two pairs of pants, shoes or work boots, five pairs of underwear and socks, a T-shirt, tie, and — during winter months, a coat, hat, and gloves. Most items come from gently-used clothing donations, but all underwear, socks, and winter hats and gloves are purchased new.
“When men are released from prison, they are given $100, a bus ticket, and an ill-fitting shirt and pants," says Annette Jenkins, executive director of One Man’s Treasure. "Many do not have a family to return to, and others return to families who are not financially able to assist them with even the basic necessities."
The primary client of One Man’s Treasure is a man released after serving a long-term sentence. The charity also partners with organizations to help men who have spent time in transition homes, graduated from job training programs, and been part of rehab programs and ministries while incarcerated.
Once a former prisoner is approved, clothing is selected and gathered at the clothes closet based on a client’s size and needs and then delivered by a male volunteer, a “shepherd,” to the client’s home. Each clothing delivery also includes a card with a Bible verse.
“Employment is critical for all of these men as they seek to change the direction of their lives, and having decent clothing for job interviews and employment is a critical component of obtaining that employment,” Jenkins says. “Appearance does matter in that process and reintegration into society.”
Since its founding, One Man’s Treasure has provided clothing to more than 10,500 men. There have been many success stories, Jenkins says. She remembers a man who spent over 25 years in prison and was then hired to work in waste management.
“He was told that he could not return to work without a pair of steel-toe boots,” says Jenkins. One Man’s Treasure provided the boots, and he eventually became a permanent employee in another field and provided with a retirement plan.
Another man spent 20 years in prison and now serves as a CEO of a nonprofit working with imprisoned men to prepare them for the business world, Jenkins says.
Some past clients have come back to serve as volunteers to deliver clothes to new clients. They help newly released men see that there is hope for successful re-entry into society after prison, Jenkins says.
Volunteer opportunities abound at the clothes closet, including serving as a shepherd, sorting clothes, and working on fundraising events.
The big fundraiser this year is its annual gala, themed "What's Cookin' in Dallas? A Night at the Museum!," taking place April 11 at the Museum of Biblical Art. It provides over a third of the funding needed for the program.
“This gala is for the men we serve, whose journey back to life as contributing members of society is at the heart of our mission," Jenkins says. "Over the years and again at this event, we have featured artwork from men who are incarcerated. They have offered their work to show gratitude to our ministry’s mission to serve men who, like themselves, have been incarcerated.
"Even behind the walls of correctional facilities, men have discovered a God-given talent to paint and create art, helping them find a sense of hope as they walk a new path to change the direction of their lives.”