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Volunteer Teaches Inmates Survival Skills: How to Budget Money, Save for the Future

April 15, 2016

By Andrew Garber

DOC Communications

wide view of the class posing with instructors, Linda in front and center and her husband behind her

Linda and her husband pose with the class

MONROE - Linda Hegrenes remembers worrying about the Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC) when she first moved into a new home not far from the prison in 2005.

She recalls asking her husband “do you think if any of those creeps at Monroe escape, they would find our house?”

A few years later, however, Hegrenes was regularly walking into the minimum security unit at the complex as volunteer, helping inmates learn about finances. She’s one of 700 volunteers who help run 100 programs at the facility, at no cost to the state.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that a lot of the guys in here are very smart, they just went down the wrong path,” she said. “So anything I can do as a volunteer to help them not come back is important to me. It’s worth my time and worth my effort.”

Hegrenes decided to volunteer at the prison after teaching a basic finance course at her church. “One of the ladies at the church took the class and said you guys should offer this at Monroe,” she said.

So Hegrenes and her husband started offering the class at the prison in September 2010 and never stopped. Inmates, using a work book, learn things like how to get out of debt, what kind of insurance is important to have, setting aside money is for retirement and planning for their children’s college education.

It’s a 12-week course that meets once a week for two hours. Some offenders go through it multiple times, she said. “It’s a lot of information to absorb. Especially since a lot of them have never done a budget or they don’t know anything about money management.”

Hegrenes encourages others to volunteer as well. “As soon as I got in here I realized that these are just men who made mistakes,” she said.

“Yes, some of them are really bad, but if we don’t help these people, what do we expect to happen when they get back out? If somebody gets out and is my neighbor, I’d rather they’d had volunteers coming out and teaching them things so they have more skills when they get out and are a better part of society.”