Stevenson Unit fundraiser

By Roger Cowan

The Cuero Record

On Saturday, Sept. 23 a Christian concert was held at the Cuero ISD Performing Arts Center. Proceeds from the concert went to the Stevenson Unit Chapel Fund. 

The concert featured Grammy winning Christian artist Jason Crabb, and was opened by award-winning vocal group Selah. When the concert began at 7 p.m., the 750 seat performing arts center was standing room only. Les Rabke of the Stevenson Unit Chapel Fund said 623 of those tickets had been presold online, and there were still lines out front to buy the rest of the seats.

This is the first benefit held for the Chapel Fund, which hopes to build a dedicated chapel at the Stevenson Unit Prison in Cuero. Currently, religious services for inmates are held in the gymnasium. The gymnasium is not climate controlled, and while it holds 300, due to safety concerns only 150 inmates at a time are allowed to attend services there. 

Rabke says the first step in the construction of the chapel will be raising the funds for the conceptual art, which is vital to finding supporters to help fund the chapel’s actual construction.

“People are willing to donate, but they want to see what their money is going to build,” says Rabke.

The State of Texas currently allocates no funds towards prison ministries, due to the separation of church and state. All prison ministry programs are fully funded, staffed and operated by volunteers. The Stevenson Unit has seen roughly 900 prisoners through their ministry to date. Multi-denominational, the ministry welcomes all religions and is always looking for volunteers. To be accepted as a ministry volunteer, Rabke says one must pass a periodic training class which lasts four to five hours.

“Ministry is vital to reducing recidivism,” Rabke stated. “Texas judges sent 62,000 people to prison last year, which means 62,000 need to be released to make room.”

Research has shown that 31 percent of people leaving state jails and 23 percent of those leaving prison were re-incarcerated less than three years after release.

Once completed, the proposed Stevenson Unit Chapel will be roughly 10,500 square feet and feature multi-denominational services and classrooms to better serve inmates. To learn more about how to donate or volunteer with the Stevenson Unit Chapel, please visit www.chapelfund.org.

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