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Author shares stories about relationship with dogs and God
in new book
JACKSON, La. - According to the American Veterinary Medical
Association, more than 63 percent of all American households own a
pet. Pet owners hold deep love and strong relationships with them,
as if they were their own kin. Dog is God Spelled
Backwards: Lessons I Have Learned From My Dogs About My Heavenly
Father (and Other Stories that Have Struck My
by CrossBooks) by author Michael Ellerbe showcases the lessons
he has learned about God through his relationship with his
InDog is God Spelled Backwards,
Ellerbe shares a number of anecdotes about the bond he shares with
his four dogs. Biscuit was the first to come into Ellerbe's life in
2000. Soon after, his baby brother Catfish arrived. Blueberry (also
known as Blue) was added to the pack in July 2006, and Highway
(Princess Sac-a-Mud) was found and rescued on the roadside. Ellerbe
entertains readers with humorous stories of the fun they've shared
and how through them he has grown closer to the Lord.
"With the spiritual themes woven into the stories, people will
find encouragement knowing that there is someone else who shares
their feelings, emotions and seeks answers to the mysteries of
life," says Ellerbe. "God so loves us and does have a plan for
Dog is God Spelled Backwards is a book
in which readers can find amusing, uplifting and encouraging
stories to read at their own pace. It will be of great interest for
people who love their pets and enjoy reading about humans and their
About the Author
With a keen sense of humor, Michael Ellerbe never takes himself
too seriously. An ordained Baptist preacher, he has captured
in words some of the more laughable moments in life in this book.
Ellerbe has received international recognition for his extremely
effective work in designing and implementing reentry programs for
incarcerated populations in Louisiana. In 2010, he was selected as
a Purpose Prize Fellow, by Civic Ventures, Inc., an honor given to
those individuals who are giving back to society at a time in their
lives when most would be preparing for retirement. Retirement is
not in Ellerbe's vocabulary. This is his first book. All proceeds
from book sales will go to the nonprofit Ellerbe founded Refined By
Fire Ministries, Inc. to further the outstanding work the
organization continues to do in the area of reentry programs for
the incarcerated, ex-offenders and their families.
CrossBooks, a division of LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, is a Christian
publishing imprint committed to bringing more Christian voices into
the publishing industry. Established authors, first-time authors,
and authors anywhere in between can meet their goals and fulfill
their vision for their books by publishing with CrossBooks.
CrossBooks' innovative style of publishing blends the best of
traditional and self-publishing. While our authors contribute
monetarily to cover the cost of publishing, we maintain a strict
moral and quality standard that every manuscript must meet for us
to publish. For more information on publishing your Christian book
with CrossBooks, log on to crossbooks.com or call
Purpose Prizes Honor Americans Over Age
60for Making an
Extraordinary Impact in theirEncore
Baton Rouge - Civic Ventures today announced that Michael
Ellerbe, a Monroe native now residing in the Greater Baton Rouge
area, is a 2010 Purpose Prize Fellow. Ellerbe was recognized as a
social entrepreneur over 60 who, in his encore career, is using his
experience and passion to make an extraordinary impact on society's
biggest challenges. Now in its fifth year, the six-year, $17
million Purpose Prize program is the nation's only large-scale
investment in social innovators in the second half of life.
"Purpose Prize Fellows show what's possible in our communities -
and the world - when experienced adults apply their passion and
skill to improve the lives of others." said Alexandra Céspedes
Kent, Director of The Purpose Prize. "Imagine the potential
for society if tens of thousands of adults focused their know-how
on the social causes they are most passionate about - it's a
Ellerbe was named a Fellow because of his ground breaking
programs and achievements that are providing incarcerated
populations life skills and training as well as enabling
ex-offenders to, as Michael says, "move from tax burdens to
tax payers." Michael, an ordained Baptist preacher, stepped
down from the pulpit in 2004 to assist Dixon Correctional Institute
(DCI) in the development of the legislatively mandated pre-release
life skills program for offenders approaching release. Having
provided faith-based programs and worship services in inner city
settings and correctional facilities across the U.S. as well as
Louisiana for over 18 years prior, it was an opportunity he felt
called to do. "This is actually my second encore career as I
accepted the call into the ministry at age 45 having already spent
a career in business as a mortgage banker." That experience
coupled with his ministerial background prepared Michael well for
the work he has now been doing for over seven years at DCI as
Director of Pre-Release.
The 46 Purpose Prize Fellows of 2010 will be honored at the
Purpose Prize Summit November 12-14 in Philadelphia. Approximately
400 attendees of the invitation-only event will hear from featured
speakers such as W. Wilson Goode Sr. (former mayor of
Philadelphia and 2006 Prize winner); writer and cultural
anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson (author of Composing
a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom); civil rights leader
and social innovator Robert Moses (founder of The Algebra Project);
and bestselling author Martin Seligman (founder of the field of
The Purpose Prize, funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies and the
John Templeton Foundation, is a program of Civic Ventures' Encore
Careers campaign (www.encore.org), which aims to engage millions
of baby boomers in encore careers combining social impact, personal
meaning and continued income in the second half of life.
For more information, visit: www.encore.org/prize.
Brought to you by Amedisys, Capital One, and the Sunshine
Recognizes and Honors the Winners of the 2010 Solaris
Family Road of Greater Baton Rouge would like to announce
the winners of the 3rd Annual Solaris Award Ceremony, held on
Thursday, October 14, 2010 at Boudreaux's Restaurant. Area programs
and organizations (non profit, private and governmental agencies)
were nominated and selected for their exceptional service to the
Greater Baton Rouge community.
The Solaris Award celebrates the holistic efforts that make
a program successful.
The awards are not for individuals, but honor the greatest
form of collaboration "TEAM WORK."
Congratulations to the 2010 Solaris Award
Refined by Fire Ministries, Inc.
Reentry Benefitting Families
Elain Ellerbe, President, CEO and Program Manager
Reprinted From: www.practicalmoneyskills.com
Innovative ideas and programs are what turns information into
learning. Meet our Innovative Educators - dedicated professionals
who have found new ways to teach practical money skills in the
Working together to provide financial literacy and money
management instruction, husband and wife team Michael and Elain
Ellerbe help inmates in a pre-release program at the Dixon
Correctional Institute in Jackson, LA.
The inmates in the program are aged anywhere from 17 to 77, with
the target population being 17 to 25-year-old males. When they
leave Dixon, they are dropped off at either a Baton Rouge or New
Orleans bus station with a $15 check in their pockets. Michael and
Elain's goal is to prepare them for life outside by giving them the
tools to be successful.
Michael is Director of Pre-Release for Dixon Correctional
Institute (DCI) and a volunteer instructor for the Reentry
Benefiting Families (RBF) program, a non-profit that provides
resources and social services to individuals impacted by the
criminal justice system. Elain is President and CEO of RBF and also
a volunteer instructor for Dixon Correctional Institute.
Michael limits DCI classes to 20 students, and they've proved so
popular that there is a waiting list. The program covers 10 modules
in 15 weeks using the FDIC Money Smart curriculum, followed by a
14-module course called Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World. A
recent course featured an ex-offender who spoke to the class about
how he built a successful financial life after leaving prison.
Many of the student inmates are part of the underserved and
unbanked population. "I never had a bank account and always kept my
money under my mattress. I did not realize how having a bank
account and learning budgeting could be so helpful. I now know and
will use these new skills to help me and my family," said Edgar, a
student in the program. The pre-release program ensures that when
inmates are released, they rejoin society with basic financial
management skills, the ability to secure housing and employment,
and a plan to request a credit report and repair any bad
"We even have the IRS and Child Support Enforcement Program come
in and talk to the guys about tax credits and back child support,"
said Michael. Additionally, the pre-release program covers basic
financial concepts such as 401ks and the difference between a
savings and loan institution and a credit union. Since many of the
students have not paid into a retirement program in the past, "we
break it down for them," said Elain. "We explain what a 401k and
IRA is. We tell them it is simple, and that they can do it."
In the end, the goal is to keep the rate of returning to prison
rate down. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 67
percent of former inmates are rearrested. In Louisiana that number
is 50 percent, and at DCI it's even lower at 40 percent. "Every
time a man does not come back, it saves the state $28,0000 a year,"
Before inmates are released, Michael and Elain work with them to
prepare a resume and discuss housing and the companies that are
hiring in their communities. For former inmate Dwayne, who was
released in June, the classes at DCI impacted him positively. "Not
only did I learn money management skills, I also realized I could
be successful in managing my life once I returned home. After being
locked up since I was 18, and now I am 32, it was pretty scary to
think how I was going to be able to make it. I now am home with my
family. I have a job, a checking account and check card. These
classes made that possible."
Practical Money Skills commends Michael and Elain Ellerbe of the
Dixon Correctional Institute and Reentry Benefiting Families
program for their contributions to financial literacy.
Pictured from left to right:
Wesley Gralapp - Suit Donor 7
Attorney with Neblett, Beard
& Arsenault of Alexandria, La.
Johnny Lewis - Men's
Wearhouse Asst. Regional
Elaine Ellerbe - President
CEO of Refined by Fire
Ministries, DOC's Non-Profit
partner in the Suit Drive
On Wednesday, Sept. 15, RBF CEO Elain Ellerbe appeared on
the KAYT/88.1 FM radio program, Reentry Solutions, which broadcasts
across Northwest and Northeast Louisiana, including some of
Texas. The purpose of the program is to inform the public on
programs and activities that are taking place for incarcerated men
and women as well as those who have returned home. Elain
provided information regarding Reentry Benefiting Families'
partnership with the national Men's Wearhouse clothing chain and
the Louisiana Department of Corrections to provide gently worn
professional wear to men and women soon to be released and those
that have recently returned home. Throughout Louisiana, the
19 Men's Wearhouse Locations in the state will be accepting
clothing donations through the end of September. This is the
3rd year for the program and well over 10,000 pieces of clothing
have been donated in that time. This year clothing donors
receive not only an income tax deduction receipt, but also a 25%
discount coupon to be used towards purchases at Men's
Wearhouse. Elain was joined by DOC staff which included
Probation and Parole Officers from the Alexandria District, Phelps
Correctional Center, Johnny Lewis, Regional Manager for Men's
Wearhouse and Wesley Gralapp, Attorney at Law with Neblett, Beard
and Arsenault of Alexandria. Mr. Gralapp challenged on air
attorneys and court officials to donate to the program and he
himself donated a number of very high quality suits during the
For more information visit RBF's website at www.rbf.la, DOC
website atwww.doc.la.gov, or the
Men's Wearhouse Suit Drive website at www.nationalsuitdrive.com
Family Road of Greater Baton Rouge would like to announce the
2010 Finalists of the 3rd Annual Solaris Award Ceremony. The
ceremony to honor the finalists and announce the winners will be
held on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at Boudreaux?s on Government
Street. Click Here
By CHANTE DIONNE WARREN
Advocate staff writer
Published: Aug 9, 2010
JACKSON - Drug dealing put Walter Washington behind bars eight
years ago and separated him from his children.
The Nurturing Parenting program at Dixon Correctional Institute,
where Washington is serving time, has helped him to reach out to
his son and daughter through telephone calls and letters, showing
them the kind of love he said he missed while growing up.
"I never ever wanted to hurt my kids the way I was hurting,"
said Washington, who said he was mostly reared by his
Washington's father died when he was young and his mother did
not always know how to display love, he said.
Washington, 38, of New Orleans, was pessimistic initially when
he met Elain Ellerbe, co-facilitator of the program who teaches
"I asked her, 'How can you teach a man how to be a man?' "
The answers came during sessions on being a man, learning and
teaching morals, discipline and culture and how to express love and
communicate, Washington said.
"She was reaching the men. You have to be sensitive. Your ego
must go. You have to get on the kids' level and if you teach kids
love, you have to yourself model this out," he said.
Ellerbe is chief executive officer of Reentry Benefiting
Families, an initiative of Refined by Fire Ministries Inc. She and
her husband Michael, who runs the Financial Management Overview
program for inmates and works as a corrections liaison at the
prison, said they have worked with area prison systems for 23
"We're authentic and transparent and we're serious about what
we're doing. It's not about the dollars. We're committed," said
Elain Ellerbe, who once served as a program facilitator for Prevent
She said she often brings handouts and leads open discussions
with about 50 men attending the parenting classes.
Since the Ellerbes started teaching financial management classes
in 2009 and fatherhood classes in 2004, private funding and state
funding have helped to sustain the programs, Elain Ellerbe
After state funding was cut in 2009, the Ellerbes' Reentry
Benefiting Families program was awarded a $25,000 grant from the
National Fatherhood Initiative.
Michael Ellerbe said the award was based on a strong
collaboration that Reentry Benefiting Families has had with the
Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections through
fatherhood and parenting programs since 2004.
Many inmates who attend the classes want to learn as much as
they can in prison to avoid repeating past mistakes once they are
released, Michael Ellerbe said. "What I tell the guys is we can't
fix you, but we can give you the tools," he said.
Other inmates said they also have benefited from financial
management and fatherhood classes.
Melvin Elie, 34, has served part of his sentence for
manslaughter at Dixon. He said he has six children, two of his own
and four stepchildren.
"I took their classes to help me learn how to exercise those
resources in me," Elie said. "It allows me to close in the gaps.
I'm not taking these classes to go home early; I'm trying to learn
to better myself."
One component of the parenting program is the "Read to Me Daddy"
project in which fathers are videotaped reading books to their
Elie said family members told him the children watch the videos
constantly because it helps them feel closer to him. "It helped my
relationship with my children and with my niece," he said.
Michael Ellerbe said about 20 inmates who complete the financial
management classes are eligible to get time taken off their
"If a prisoner is trying to go back into the world, this class
should be a requirement," said Valrice Cooper, 50, of New Orleans,
who is serving the final 15 months of his sentence for
Cooper said the classes taught him how to budget and live below,
not above his means. "I'd never dealt with banks or credit unions.
I needed these steps for the rest of my life," he said. "I've got
the picture now."
RBF CEO in Graduating Class
Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Secretary Ruth
Johnson today announced the graduation of the second round of
fellows and issued a call for nominations for the third round of
the Innovation in Louisiana Government (ILG) fellowship, a
three-month program that will provide leadership training and
technical assistance and a $1,000 stipend to fellows working to
develop innovative social service projects.
"We are excited to see the quality of leadership and innovation
that will result from the third round of the ILG fellowship," said
Johnson. "With each round we are reminded of the importance of
fostering leadership skills and innovative problem-solving in our
field in order to improve the way we deliver social services in
Louisiana through changes business processes that achieve cost
savings or increase efficiencies, intervention strategies to
improve client outcomes, and systems-level integration."
Over the course of the three-month academy, fellows gain skills
and tools to be more effective leaders as Louisiana modernizes the
methods by which social services are delivered in the state. A key
element in this process is the planning of individual fellowship
projects. Throughout the course, fellows receive training and work
together in person and through virtual collaboration and support.
At the end of the fellowship, participants will return together as
a group to finalize and share their work and plan for
implementation and dissemination.
Currently completing the second round of the ILG fellowship,
which is scheduled to wrap up July 29, are community-based,
non-governmental, government and industry representatives that
began the three month fellowship back in May. Second round fellows
Sheila Matute is the Director of Education and Child Care
Services with the Early Childhood and Family Learning Foundation.
Her proposed project aims to provide early learning, resources and
case management for families with autistic or exceptional needs
children from birth to 12 years of age.
Angela Nicole Louis is a Grant Manager with the Capital
Area Violence Intervention Center. Her project, Teens Against Teen
Dating Violence, proposes to train teens to be a source of guidance
for their peers and use a system of early intervention, peer to
peer networks and parent and teacher involvement.
Anthony Ellis is the Program Administrator for DCFS
Prevention Services. Karen Faulk is a Program Manager in the same
unit. Together they propose a comprehensive service integration
project for families of high risk children ages 0 to 5 for families
who have been reported to DCFS and are determined to need ongoing
service in order to improve child safety and reduce re-entry into
the child welfare system.
Charles R. King is the Program Director of Intensive
Home-Based Program for the Volunteers of America in Alexandria. His
proposed project aims to create a volunteer mentoring program for
parents of children at risk for out-of-home placement with the goal
of teaching parents new and better ways of coping with the
challenges of everyday life.
Elain Ellerbe is the President and CEO of Reentry
Benefiting Families. She proposes to expand a pre-release program
currently in place at Dixon Correctional Institute that provides
substantive life-skills programming for offenders and their
families so that they may move toward self-sufficiency through
financial literacy and other tools.
Gwendolyn Jackson is a DCFS Child Welfare Specialist. She
proposes an assessment of the use, management procedures, benefits
and side effects of treatment regimens including medication for
psychiatric, behavioral and emotional health needs of children in
foster care in order to develop training and education for foster
Jacqueline H. Smith is a licensed Clinical Social Worker
and a Community Volunteer in New Orleans. Her project aims to
strengthen families through a faith-based collaborative model of
supports, accountability, resource leveraging among families,
community partners and state systems to help single mothers reach
their maximum parenting potential and to increase children/youth
Karla Venkataraman is a Section Administrator with DCFS'
Home Development program. Her project aims to identify ways to
increase in the number of certified foster and adoptive families
for children in the custody of the state through outsourcing the
recruitment and/or certification portions of the Home Development
Kimberly Bardell is a Program Coordinator at DCFS. Her
proposed project aims to develop a community emergency plan to
empower community residents to help one another before official
emergency relief arrives by providing emergency child care,
transportation and food pantry services for their neighbors.
The 11 fellows for the second round were confirmed by an
external Social Services Council consisting of leaders in
government and community that advises DCFS on policy and program
issues on a regular basis. Council members also serve as mentors to
the fellowship class and provide guidance to the as they work to
develop effective solutions to social service delivery that may be
implemented, assessed and replicated.
Following the fellowship, participants also may serve as mentors
to future fellowship classes and will be asked to share what they
learn with their peers through a Leadership and Innovation
Conference that marks the end of the Academy.
Nominations for round three are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, July
26, 2010. Self-nominations will be accepted. Nominees will be
selected based on the quality of their fellowship project proposal,
demonstrated leadership in social services, experience or interest
in designing and implementing new ideas, ability to work in
partnerships and contribute to peer-learning and commitment to the
application of information and communication technology.
Funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will support the
fellowship class during a three-month training academy. The academy
will consist of a formal curriculum, expert speakers, technical
assistance, in person and virtual peer learning and collaboration,
one-on-one leadership coaching, collaborative social networking
tools, and the opportunity to fully develop their proposed projects
into a complete implementation plan.
Information, nomination forms and instructions are available at
www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/leadership. For more information or
questions, contact Daryl Blacher at firstname.lastname@example.org or call
By ASHLEY SEXTON GORDON
Published By: inRegister
Father's day continues to matter to men who are incarcerated. At
Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson and beyond, a program
called Read to Me Daddy allows fathers to be filmed reading a book
to their child and then sends this book and video to the child
outside the gates of the prison. It's one of the many programs
designed by Re-entry Benefiting Families (RBF), an initiative of
Refined by Fire Ministries Inc.
"It helps dad learned to read better and to connect with his
child," says Michael Ellerbe, director of pre-release at Dixon, who
co-founded RBF with his wife, Elain. "The man who reunites with his
family is less likely to recidivate and less likely to be back in
The incarcerated population is the Ellerbes' passion. For 23
years, Michael and Elain, along with daughter Ari, have provided
faith-based programs for inner-city residents and ex-offenders. In
1995, the trio founded RBF, Inc, Inc., a nonprofit organization
that partners with correctional facilities and other organizations
to provide educational programs for incarcerated adults and youth.
Today, RBF teaches incarcerated men and women life skills, such as
money management, parenting and job readiness, so that they are
better prepared for life once they are released.
"We were ministry-driven when we started many years ago, but we
saw that there were many other faith-based organizations going into
the prisons. We saw a need to teach them life skills," says Elain
Ellerbe, president and CEO of RBF. "The human interaction with
these men is so important. One-on-one. If we can teach parenting
and financial management, they have a greater chance of being
successful for life.
Dixon Correctional Institute, a multicustody state prison
facility located in Jackson, Louisiana, was the venue for a
precedent setting weekend seminar for male offenders and their
legally married wives. Hosted by Michael Ellerbe, DCI pre-release
director and his wife, Elain, the pilot seminar paired incarcerated
husbands and their spouses in group sessions designed to pose
situations conventional marriages face daily.
From 2005 to 2007, Refined By Fire Ministries, Inc. and Dixon
Correctional Institute partnered to implement the federally funded
Grant Program "Marriages That Matter." This collaborative pilot
project provided healthy marriage education and child support
services to underserved ethnically diverse non-married, custodial
and non-custodial parents. A total of one-hundred DCI offenders
participated in the weekly class format, and 23 participated in the
one weekend seminar format. Additionally, ten families participated
in the Sunday evening Family Dinner concluding the weekend
The idea of a marriage seminar strictly for couples, was first
presented to Michael Ellerbe as a continuation of his DCI
pre-release curriculum. Mr. Ellerbe discussed the proposal with his
wife Elain, who serves as chief executive officer and president of
the nonprofit agency Reentry Benefiting Families (RBF). It was
determined that a seminar of this nature would be an ideal forum to
enhance reentry initiatives of the Louisiana Department of Public
Safety and Corrections and Dixon Correctional Institute.
Often referred to as "Team Ellerbe," Mr. and Mrs. Ellerbe
pitched the innovative married couple's seminar concept to DCI
Warden Steve Rader and Deputy Warden Janet Lorena. The veteran
prison administrators readily agreed that the seminar might impact
the institution's Reentry Mission in a positive way. Providing
married offenders with social skills, holds the promise to reduce
recidivism by strengthening marital bonds before offenders are
released from incarceration.
Under the close watch of DCI security staff and video
surveillance, the seminar was staged inside the prison's new Nancy
Ree Foreman "Freedom" Chapel. In 2008, the Freedom Chapel was
dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Foreman, mother of former world
heavyweight boxing champion, George Foreman.
Married for 32 years, Mr. and Mrs. Ellerbe led the pilot group
through revealing question and answer sessions that spurred open
and honest responses from all the participants. What quickly became
evident was that incarcerated married couples face unique and
difficult challenges that have, until the DCI/RBF seminar, gone
unaddressed by state and private social service agencies. The
Ellerbe's utilized the couple's modules from the Marriage and
Relationships for Fragile Families curriculum that has been highly
recommended by the Louisiana Department of Social Services.
Guest speaker, Summer Steib, representing Capital Area Family
Violence Intervention Center, Inc, Battered Women's Program, based
in Baton Rouge, offered an informative lecture regarding important
domestic violence issues.
Cooking for Christ from Healing Place Church and Rocco's
Restaurant of Zachary donated lunch for the participants.
At the conclusion of the seminar, Mr. Ellerbe, also an ordained
minister, married three couples, and renewed the marital vows of
the other attendees. It marked the first time at DCI that marriages
were performed en masse.
All the offenders and their spouses expressed deep gratitude to
Mr. and Mrs. Ellerbe, and the DCI administration of Warden Steve
Rader, Deputy Warden Janet Lorena, Assistant Warden James Stevens,
Assistant Warden Gary Shotwell, Assistant Warden Bruce Coston and
Colonel John Smith for coordinating their special weekend