dj aflleje


The first thing you notice about D.J. Aflleje*, TGI's Client-Member of the Month, is his warm and friendly greeting, which frequently includes a hug.  A hug from D.J. will make your day!  In the community for two months after a 15 year sentence, D.J. has embraced life fully. He immediately enrolled in Merritt College's Citizen's Concerned for Education Program, participates in the classes offered at the Seventh Step Transitional House, and is an intergral member of TGI's Family Connections course and Reintegration Counseling Program. D.J. has always been motivated. During his incarceration, he participated in any and all classes available. This made his time pass more quickly but also helped prepare him for reentry to the community. D.J.'s most important activity in prison was developing a spiritual life and faith in God. In 2001, two of his friends brought him to a church service, "I saw this one guy who just so lit up. He was filled with joy.  It touched me and I saw a thing that I wanted." A few weeks later, D.J. was baptized. "The pastor, Pastor Barham - I'll never forget his name - asked if anybody wanted to give their life over to Jesus and God and I said yes."


The baptism was transformative for D.J. "The dipped me in the water and I came up fresh and new and haven't been back [to his old life] since.  I mean I had my ups and downs because I was still in prison but I kept my faith in God strong and I continued to walk that walk. And here I am today."

His commmittment to the prison's religious community kept him safe during his incarceration and his faith helped manage his return to the community. "People in my past expect me to be the same person I was before I went to prison 15 years ago. So it's been a challenge for me." However, the compassion and kindness he developed as a result of his devotion to God help him cope with the expectations of others. "They see I'm not faking the funk.  Everything that comes out of my mouth is 'God bless you' and "how are you?' and have a good day'. It's always positive from where before it was always like, 'wassup?', 'wassup, homey?'  It's something different now."

When D.J. is not busy studying, he is chasing his 2-year old grandson, "Kiddo", and spending time with his daughters (22 and 20 years) and son (18 years). "The best thing about being out is me being able to go visit my children now rather than them having to come see me in prison. Just to be able to hug them rather than see them behind walls."

D.J. is grateful for his freedom, his family, his spiritual life, and Pastor William T. Grajeda. "Pastor Grajeda bent over backwards for me the first day I met him.  He's done so much for me. I appreciate having him in my life.  Just his love, his unconditional love that he has for God and for me.  I love that about him." Wow, D.J.! The dear Pastor is blushing! TGI is grateful for YOU and the unconditional love and opennes you give to everyone around you.  We love you!

*pronounced "af-ul-jay"



timothy-isaac-roman1_webThere's nothing more excting than wacthing a young adult grow into himself and realize the special person he is - and that's the case with Timothy Agront.  Over a year ago, Timothy began reintegration cousneling program with Pastor William.  During that time, Timothy catapulted himself to Star Student (GPA 3.7), Superlative Employee (he now trains all new workers) and Super Dad (custody of his two sons, Roman, age 8, and Issac, age 3) - all at the young age of 30!  


How did he do it?  Timothy, sweetly, gives much of the credit to Pastor Willam, "He saw things in me, I didn't see in myself. He taught me how to focus on one thing at time. He's like my backbone." While Pastor William is an important force in Timothy's life, most likely the dear Pastor isn't doing his homework from one of 4 classes, picking his kids up from school, or running to work - that's all Timothy! 

On parole for 2 years, Timothy looks forward to his discharge date on November 22, 2011.  "I keep myself busy with postive things every minute of the day.  If I'm not with my kids, I am studying or at work.  Any free time I have goes to my kids." Timothy and his sons most recently saw "Walt Disney on Ice" (who doesn't love that!).  "Being outside, water parks, Chuckie Cheese. We do it all." Timothy looks forward to the future in a way he never has before, "I know I can do anything I put my mind to and it all started with The Gamble Institute.

Thanks for the credit, Timothy.  We also know you can do anything you put your mind to because it all started with YOU!  We love you! Congratulations on your success!


sheena-avila-july-2010_webIf you're wondering who is that young lady always surrounded by folks laughing and smiling, well, that's Sheena Avila. In addition to being a stalwart PAROLEE POWER Works! student and volunteer, Sheena is one of the wittiest folks you'll meet.  She brings her humor and joy to all who know her, including her 6-year old son, Marcus.

We are sure Sheena's sense of humor came in handy as the oldest of five brothers and sisters. Raised in Mateca, Sheena is close to all her siblings and considers her mother to be one of her best friends.  Spending as much time as possible with her family is one of her greatest pleaserus. Of course, in person visits are the best, but Sheena also communicates regularly with her mom over email - a skill she credits to TGI's PAROLEE POWER Works! course (thanks, Sheena!).  "I love the computer! And I am a fast learner!"

In August 2010, Sheena graduated from GEOCare's Oakland Facility, a reentry program for men and women on federal parole.  She moved closer to her family in Manteca and now has many opportunities to, "just enjoy being me."  She is also reflective about her incarceration history, "I know I can never get that time back. I went in, my son was a baby. I came out, he was a little boy."  Sheena says, "you have to be grateful for what you have because you never know when it's going to be taken away.  Your life can change in a heartbeat."  Wow! Funny and wise - that's a perfect combination!  Congratulations, Sheena on all you have achieved. TGI loves you!


will-helps-ricky_webIn May 2010, TGI celebrated the extraorinary efforts of an extraordinary volunteer, Will Ferreria.  TGI made Will's acquainteance in October 2009 when he was a resident at GEOCare's Oakland Facility.  Soon after that, Will joined PAROLEE POWER Works!.  He volunteered every month and helped developed the first PAROLEE POWER Works! course held in February 2010.  Will's kind and generous spirit was a primary reason for PAROLEE POWER Works! success.  All the students loved working with Will and many owe their newfound comfort with computers to his patient and simple teaching style.

Where does such a talented and open-hearted person come from?  At TGI, We think from Heaven but Will tells us he's from Napa.  Will was first introduced to computers by his father, a computer scientist himself.  Naturally curious about how things work, Will gravitated to computers eventually earning an Associates Degree in Computer Science.  Will is not just a computer whiz, he is also an accomplished artist, musician, and motorcycle mechanic. "Actually, I love working on anything mechanical or that has an engine," Will says.

Will's variety of skills and talents made not only the 8 years he served in the state and federal correctional systems easier to bear but were meaningful activities he could participate in on his return home.  When asked what was most challenging about coming back to the community, Will's positive attitude shines through, "nothing was too challenging. I am a happy person and adapt easily to new situations."

It's true.  Within a short time after his release, Will found employment, returned home to live with his dad, and continued to serve the community. "The best thing about being out of prison is The Gamble Institute! I really enjoy doing the volunteer work. I've never done anything like it." Wow! That's quite a compliment coming from a man who does so many things so well. "What can I say? I'm a Libra, analytical and creative. The perfect balance."  We think you're perfect too, Will! TGI loves you!


debbie-120209_webBorn and bred in Hayward, CA, Debbie Gamez is a testament to the open-minded nature that characterizes Bay Area natives.  It was Debbie's capacity for openness that brought her to TGI. Like all TGI's client-members, Debbie's past includes a history of addiction and incarceration.  Over the past four years, Debbie worked hard to overcome that history.

Debbie's many achievements include completing parole supervision, graduating from a 12-month residential drug treatment program, and being abstinent from drugs for 18 months.  In addition to these major accomplishments, Debbie focused on her work as a parent taking numerous child-care and parenting classes.  Finally, Debbie was thrilled to move into her own apartment with room enough for her children!

While Debbie achieved much her success of her own volition, she believes her new found stability stems from her work with TGI's Reintegration Counseling Program.  By working with Reintegration Counselor, Pastor William T. Grajeda, Debbie received critical structural and social support, including securing needed funds for her apartment.  Debbie feels that the Reintegration Counseling Program allowed her to flourish. She now attends NA meetings regularly, works with a therapist weekly, and volunteers in the community monthly.  

When asked what influenced the incredible changes in her life, Debbie says, "I had to learn to trust people.  When I did that, the positive changes started."  She also acknowledges that staying away from my old crowd was really important too." While leaving behind friends from the past was difficult and lonely, Debbie feels it paid off.  "When people from my old life see me now, they see the change in me and they ask me, 'what's your secret?'"

What is your secret, Debbie?  We think its your open mind and your kind heart.  Congratulations on your many acheivements!  TGI loves you!