As part of St. Louis County’s Sesquicentennial year, the County is presenting a Volunteer Recognition Award to Jerry Wiita and Pat Schoen on Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 9:30 AM at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth as part of its regular County Board meeting.
Sheriff Ross Litman will present the award to Jerry Wiita and Pat Schoen, who have spent countless hours of volunteering at the St. Louis County Jail. Their work is greatly appreciated by the County Sheriff’s Office and several agencies. They have helped hundreds, if not thousands of St. Louis County residents when they have needed it most.
Jerry Wiita started volunteering at St. Louis County Jail in 1978. That year, he was attending a community Alcoholics Anonymous group when he was asked to help run an A.A. group at the County Jail. Jerry was instrumental in getting a solid A.A. group program on the 5th floor of the old St. Louis County jail. He would take car loads of inmates across town to community A.A. meetings. In the summer, Jerry would take the group to a park for a picnic. He remembers the inmates were always well behaved and very appreciative to get out of the jail for the afternoon. He still runs into some of those inmates; they will walk up to him and ask, do you remember me? They take the time to tell Jerry how they are doing, good or bad, and thank him for his help and support.
Approximately ten years ago Jerry was asked to help with a bible study group at the new jail and has been volunteering for two men’s groups since then. He understands how to deliver a message to inmates. Jerry says: "You can’t preach church doctrine, but instead give hope and support by teaching salvation and forgiveness. Than you let the Lord do the rest."
Jerry’s help follows inmates beyond the jail walls by providing support and encouragement. He meets former inmates at community groups and encourages them to continue in their sobriety. Jerry has also referred other volunteers to the County Jail. Sheriff Ross Litman said: “Jerry is very down to earth and always has a joke. The jail is a better place with Jerry in it.”
Patrick Schoen started volunteering at the St. Louis County Jail in 1986. He got into volunteering at the direction of his treatment counselor, who said: "If you want to keep it, give it away." Pat started volunteering at the Inter‑Group program answering phones and questions about the 12 Step Program, and one day he saw a sign looking for an A.A. volunteer.
In 1988, Pat started working at NERCC as a Correction Counselor, while continuing to volunteer at the County Jail. He attributes volunteering at the jail as one of the reasons he has kept his own sobriety for the last 20 years. He is a fine role model for inmates who struggle with sobriety issues.
Pat volunteers at the jail with an A.A, a Living Sober group, and meets with inmates one on one who need extra help and support. Pat also follows up with inmates at community groups or in prison. He provides them with support and encouragement to do the right thing.
Sheriff Litman said: “Pat is a matter-of-fact kind of guy, he says what he thinks and always calls it straight. On more than one occasion, inmates haven’t liked what they have heard, but they always come back and thank Pat for his candor and honesty.”
Pat is always working to find the jail new A.A. volunteers for the men’s and women’s groups. He went to a Meth Anonymous group to learn more about meth and found volunteers to come to the jail to talk about recovery from this very addictive drug. Thanks to Pat’s recruiting, the jail will soon have a Narcotics Anonymous group for the first time. Pat supported and coached the volunteers through a trial period.
Anyone dealing with the world of corrections knows that in order to keep people out of jail, we need to have resources to help inmates permanently address problem areas of their lives, such as sobriety and education.
Jerry and Pat have significantly contributed to inmate sobriety and to helping them to do the right thing.