By Neva Rae Fox
An organization modestly based in a warehouse and dependent on volunteers and donations has provided much-needed help to thousands of men for nearly two decades. Since its founding in 2005, One Man’s Treasure has assisted more than 14,000 men released from Texas state prisons who call the greater Dallas area their home.
One Man’s Treasure has one purpose: to provide men who have been released from prison with clothing and shoes. “It’s a simple ministry but it’s vital,” said Annette Jenkins, executive director. “We decided we are going to focus on one thing: clothes to go to church, to go to work, to go to their children’s baseball games, so they can look like everyone else. They don’t have to worry about clothes.
“The goal is to make him understand that people care.”
One Man’s Treasure “recognizes the barriers this vulnerable population face and the need for the community, especially the church, to reach out to assist these returning men as they seek to reenter with dignity and hope,” Jenkins said.
With its roots in Kairos, a well-known Christian prison ministry for laity and clergy, One Man’s Treasure became a 501(c)(3) in 2013.
Citing her calling through Kairos, Jenkins connected with One Man’s Treasure in 2008 and became executive director in 2010.
A member of St. James on the Lake in Kemp, Texas, Jenkins described the many challenges newly released prisoners experience. “Someone who has been incarcerated for 20 years and now faces cellphones, charge cards for gas pumping, so much more. The world has changed so much.”
COVID-19 has affected One Man’s Treasure in many ways: fewer clothing and monetary donations; rising prices; greater need from the men. Nonetheless, in 2020, 1,477 men were helped by One Man’s Treasure, with more than 800 to date in 2021.
At One Man’s Treasure, “Sixty percent of clothing is donated. We make sure it is in very good condition because we don’t want them to think that they are getting secondhand clothes,” Jenkins said. “They are getting clothes for them to wear and fit into the public.”
One Man’s Treasure relies on area faith-based organizations. “A lot of the donations come through clothing drives in churches,” Jenkins said. “Then there are individuals who will donate directly, such as widows, because they know where the clothes will be used and that gives them a level of comfort.”
Underwear and socks are purchased, mostly in bulk, through an arrangement with Fruit of the Loom.
Upon release from Texas state prison, the state provides men with minimal help: a bus ticket, $100, and one outfit, whether it fits or not.
The process is simple. Released adults call One Man’s Treasure, based in a warehouse in Rockwall, near Dallas. “They never come into our facility,” Jenkins said. “Transportation is a big challenge for those who have been released from prison.”
One Man’s Treasure tries to make it easy for the men. “We ask their color preference, sizes, if they have opportunities for a job, if they need special clothing for a job, like warehouse work or construction work,” Jenkins said.
From there, volunteers prepare individual packages consisting of “four or five shirts, pants, underwear, socks, a tie for an interview, and in the winter, a coat, hat, and gloves, shoes. It’s enough clothes for a week’s work.”
In a 10-minute video about the program, Bryan Kelley remembered when he was released after 22 years of incarceration. “I never Googled anything, I never sent an email, I never used a cell phone or a debit card. The world went on.”
“Have you ever felt like you don’t belong, like everyone you encounter singles you out as an outsider?” Bryan Kelley asked. “Such is the experience of our returning citizens in Texas each year. They are returning to society after years — sometimes even decades — of absence wearing a mismatched, ill-fitting set of clothes given them at release by people who don’t necessarily care about their successful re-entry. What if we could bless them with clothes that would help them fit in and feel like they belong? Clothes that would help them get a job and graft seamlessly into society?”
Kelley, who now leads a ministry called Prison Entrepreneurship Program, continued, “One Man’s Treasure did that for me seven years ago when I released after 22 years in prison. Since then I have become the CEO of another prison ministry, and I’m currently serving on the board of directors for OMT. It wasn’t the clothes that enabled my adjustment and change, but they were a big part of a great start. Obviously we can’t expect everyone that receives clothes from OMT to become CEO, we should expect them to do much greater than that!”
One Man’s Treasure works with more than 50 organizations, including the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Reentry and Integration Division, Rehabilitation Division, Dallas Region 2 Parole Division; Windham School District; chaplains in state prisons; transition homes; government and local agencies; and ecumenical churches and groups. Area Episcopal partners are Holy Trinity by the Lake, Heath; St. Michael and All Angels, Dallas; St. Justin’s, Canton; and St. James on the Lake, Kemp.
Jenkins cited the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, which “has been extremely supportive of what we do.”
One Man’s Treasure boasts 150 volunteers, of whom 80-90 are shepherds directly assisting men and delivering clothes. “We’re not a big organization,” Jenkins said. “Our resources are not huge.”
To many, it’s important to return the kindness. “Some keep in touch, some have come back after they have become established and became a shepherd to make deliveries,” Jenkins said. “They make wonderful shepherds, as they understand the overwhelming challenges the men are facing.”
Information on other services is offered to each man. “We have a resource guide for the Dallas area that we put together with the Episcopal Foundation of Dallas listing sources for food, job placements, substance abuse programs.”
One Man’s Treasure is a ministry. “We follow the call of Christ in Matthew 25,” Jenkins said. “But it is also to take that man who wants to change the direction of his life and be that hand up for them.”
Among its honors, in 2016 One Man’s Treasure was awarded the Governor’s Texas Department of Criminal Justice Reentry and Integration Division Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award.
Jenkins has a message for the Episcopal Church: “When we talk about evangelism, we can show God’s love by reaching out to these men who are the most overlooked men. We can give them a chance.”