Most of us, upon entering the sixth or seventh decade of our lives, figure it’s time to enjoy the fruits of our lifetime of labors. It’s time to relax, visit the grandkids, maybe sit on the beach and enjoy what we’ve built over many years of hard work and earnest saving.
The so-called “golden years” are meant to be filled with fun days and relaxing nights, be it at home or travelling the world. But for those with hearts of gold, they just want to continue helping people in whatever way they can, as they have for most of their lives.
Lewes resident Jean Richardson is just that kind of person – and we’re going to tell you her story of selflessness and servitude here today.
But before we do, we must remember that we're a real estate company, first and foremost. The Oldfather Group has Jean’s beautiful and historic home on King’s Highway listed for sale at a very reasonable price, so we’re inviting you to check it out by clicking on the link below.
You can view many photos, read all about the features and amenities in the home and even take a 3D tour of the property. It’s a fantastic home, so please take a look.
Now that you’ve seen her home, let’s begin with Jean’s amazing story. Now 70 years old and retired from a career as a high school teacher in northern Virginia, Jean spends a good amount of time these days within the walls of Sussex Correctional Institution (SCI) in Georgetown.
SCI can obviously be a rather intimidating place, particular for a diminutive woman of advanced age. But Jean is there for three hours, once a week, nearly year-round, interacting with and trying to help men who are a bit down on their luck and who have made some bad choices in their respective lives.
And it’s the choices that she focuses on, all day, every day.
Usually on Mondays, Jean stands in front of her all-male class and talks to them about the art of making good life decisions. It’s a detail-oriented program that she represents, one designed by a former prisoner of war in Vietnam named Milton Burglass, who also spent time behind bars after the fighting had stopped in southeast Asia.
Her teaching is a chance for Jean to really make a difference in the lives of people who desperately need a do over in life, those who want and need a second chance. But, not everyone agrees with what the mother of two and grandmother of four is doing with her life these days – some who are closest to her even have their doubts.
“I’ve had my husband and a few other people tell me that if they made the right decisions in the first place, then they wouldn’t be in jail today, and I guess that’s true,” says Richardson. “But I’ve also been told that there is no greater teacher than the jailhouse, and I use that environment to teach them about their decisions and how they affect other people.
"Statistics show that men who complete this program have a 20 percent better chance of staying out of prison in the future.”
Jean has many stories of men she’s met at SCI who have made an impression on her life in one way or another. She loves to share these experiences, which can also serve to humanize the men who hope to one day jump start their lives and head in new and better directions.
Case in point – a man in his mid 30s was waiting for his teacher a few years ago with a big smile and an even bigger surprise. In was mid-May and he had been working on something that would put a grin on Jean Richardson’s face, one that wouldn’t disappear for several days.
It was way better than the traditional apple for the teacher.
“This guy had been involved in a bank robbery but we had been working together and I guess what I was doing made an impression on him because he gave me a Mother’s Day card that he had made himself,” remembers Richardson. “It made me feel wonderfully grateful that I was doing something that had touched him in a special way. You can really do a lot for these men in prison, but it can be really hard. So, it was very special to me that he did that.”
Jean says humbly that she has received more than she has given while working within the steel walls of Sussex Correctional Institution. I’m not sure her pupils would agree with that assessment, but it does seem to be a daily give and take, not only with the inmates but also with the guards and the staff.
She no longer works with violent offenders, but she used to and admits that “hearing the doors clank and lock behind you” used to be a bit of an unsettling experience. But today, there’s rarely a moment when she doesn’t feel safe and at peace doing what she loves to do.
The program she teaches runs once a week for 10 weeks and there are generally 30 to 40 inmates who apply for the 15 available slots. The prison decides who fills the seats, while others have to wait for another class to form in the future.
Once the inmates complete the course, Jean is not allowed to have any contact with them while they remain in prison. She can, however, meet with them once they're released, and she does remain close to a couple of her former students today. She reports that both are doing well and have no plans or desire of returning to a life behind bars.
But for Jean, she definitely does. She will continue her work behind the often-imposing walls of Sussex Correctional Institution for as long as she’s able. She’s making a difference in the lives of men who are not always given a second chance, and she’s helping to give them a new outlook and a new lease on life.
It’s not the typical recipe for enjoying your golden years at the beach, but we’re happy that Jean Richardson does what she does, and does it so well. And we’re ecstatic that she decided to become a part of the Oldfather Group family.
God bless you Jean! And keep up the good work.