Michael Ellerbe Legacy Men’s Wearhouse 2013 Suit Drive

In memory of the individual who seven years ago was responsible for bringing the project to Louisiana to benefit ex-offenders!


Click here to download/view the press release

RBF Founder New Book Published


EDITORS: For review copies or interview requests, contact:

Marketing Services
Tel: 1.866.879.0502
Fax: 812-961-3133
Email: marketingservices@crossbooks.org

(When requesting a review copy, please provide a street address.)

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 Fancy)(published by CrossBooks) by author Michael Ellerbe showcases the lessons he has learned about God through his relationship with his dogs.

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 us."

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 dogs.

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 1-866-879-0502.

Refined By Fire Ministries, Inc. Announces RBF Founder Michael Ellerbe Named Purpose Prize Fellow

Purpose Prizes Honor Americans Over Age 60for Making an Extraordinary Impact in theirEncore Careers


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 tremendous opportunity."

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 positive psychology).

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.

Family Road Solaris Awards

Brought to you by Amedisys, Capital One, and the Sunshine Pages

Recognizes and Honors the Winners of the 2010 Solaris Awards

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 Recipients

Refined by Fire Ministries, Inc.
Reentry Benefitting Families
Elain Ellerbe, President, CEO and Program Manager

Innovative Educators

Reprinted From: www.practicalmoneyskills.com
October 2010

Elain and Michael Ellerbe
Dixon Correctional Institute
Jackson, LA

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 classroom.

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 credit.

"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," Michael noted.

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.

RBF CEO Elain Ellerbe Appears on the KAYT/88.1 FM


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 and
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 program.

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

Reentry Benefiting Families Named as Family Road of Greater Baton Rouge 2010 Solaris Award Finalist

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

Parenting Skills Reinforced

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 grandmother.

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 parenting classes.

"I asked her, 'How can you teach a man how to be a man?' " Washington said.

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 years.

"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 Child Abuse.

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 said.

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 children.

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 sentences.

"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 manslaughter.

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."

DCFS Announces Graduation of Innovation in Louisiana Government Fellows

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 included:

  • 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 parents.
  • 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 developmental assets.
  • 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 program.
  • 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 daryl.blacher@la.gov or call (225) 342-9972.

Michael and Elain Ellerbe Teach Men Behind Bars How to Make it on the Other Side

Published By: inRegister

Michael and Elain Ellerbe at one
of their marriage and relationship
seminars for incarcerated adults.

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 prison."

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.