Ex-offenders testify to merits of Positive Impact group at dunk-tank event

2013-07-24T20:10:00Z 2013-07-24T21:04:40Z Ex-offenders testify to merits of Positive Impact group at dunk-tank eventSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | The grill was fired up Wednesday, and so were those lobbing balls toward a dunk tank filled with frigid water.

The target — Lake County Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. — sported a black, long-sleeved dress shirt with a checkered tie and green shorts.

"That looked like a softball," Stefaniak goaded one pitcher, just before making a splash.

The event was the second annual Dunk Tank and BBQ on the grounds behind the Kimbrough Work Release Center in Crown Point.

Funds raised will help pay for back-to-school supplies for the needy children of offenders and ex-offenders.

The effort was sponsored by Positive Impact, a volunteer support group for offenders developed in 1992 by Lake County Community Corrections.

The program aids in the rehabilitation of inmates returning to their communities.

"The core focus of Positive Impact is to encourage members to take responsibility for their actions while giving back to their family and community," said Kellie Bittorf, Community Corrections executive director.

Numerous fundraisers held by the group throughout the year also assist with such basics as food and medication.

The group meets weekly, often with guest speakers, and holds regular events.

Success story Charles Blacknell, of Gary, was released eight years ago and is now a full-fledged Community Corrections staff member who supervises work release crews.

"They reached out to me," Blacknell said of Community Corrections. "Now I want to help them."

Pastor Lee Gilliam, of Gary, is president of the core group and active since 2004.

"Every tragedy can become a triumph," Gilliam said.

Success stories over the years are too plentiful to recount, he said.

"Every time a man or a woman gets a job, that's a success," said Gilliam, who also serves on the advisory board for the Kimbrough Center.

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