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Incoming CIL Fellow a Pioneer in Bridging Community and Prison

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From left to right: Anita Patel, YWCA; Sondra Reis, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits; Louise Wolfgramm, 2013 Nonprofit Transformational Leader Awardee

CIL is pleased to welcome Amicus President Emerita Louise Wolfgramm as a 2013-14 Executive Leadership Fellow. She joins us as the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits 2013 Transformational Leader Awardee, honored at the annual Minnesota Nonprofit Leadership Conference. The Transformational Leader Award is given each year to someone who effectively demonstrates commitment to the nonprofit sector, serving 20 years or more in strategic and significant roles. Louise follows former awardees and CIL Fellows Steve Lepinski (2012/13), Director of the Washburn Center for Children, and Tony Wagner (2011/12), Former Director of Pillsbury United.

Louise has dedicated her life to the cause of bridging communities with people currently in as well as leaving prison. As of April 2013, Louise retired after over four decades of leadership for Amicus - one of the foremost nonprofits in reentry services. She continues to help Amicus transition to a new era as part of the services of Volunteers of America - Minnesota.

Her nominator for the award, Virginia McCain - a volunteer, donor, board member and board president for Amicus over the past 40 years - commends Louise's leadership:

Louise has built an entire agency around a model of caring, respect and transformation....Through co-founding the Amicus One-to-One program she has matched and taught others to match several thousand community volunteers with individual inmates, building relationships that allow participants to try out new behaviors and rekindle dreams they once thought lost. The "Amicus Way" that Louise inspired has resulted in over 2,000 people coming out of prison each year find their way to the agency, knowing that staff and interns will treat them with dignity as they search for jobs, housing and other daily necessities.

Furthermore, Ms. McCain commends Louise's commitment to cross-sector collaboration:

Amicus has been a friend to many community agencies and government and corporate leaders, reaching out to them on behalf of clients and searching for new solutions to evolving challenges. Louise has actively participated on numerous state and local boards and has supported Amicus' participation in groups such as the Department of Corrections Transition Coalition, a regional Mentoring Support group and the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition. She served on the executive team of Unity Church Unitarian and even started a restorative justice team at Unity, which is one of many communities of faith who actively support Amicus' work.

Louise comes to this work from a deep-seated sense of vocation. In this way she embodies integrative leadership at the most personal level - integration of self. In the words of Ms. McCain:

As a child, Louise sometimes accompanied her father, noted corrections official and scholar John Conrad, on trips into prisons. She saw the lifeless looks in the eyes of incarcerated boys, men and women, without hope and friendship, and she knew that for society to get the results they wanted from correctional facilities; people who are prepared to successfully rejoin society and stay out of prison; a community-based solution was necessary.

In Minneapolis, in the early 1970s she discovered a fledgling program called Amicus and volunteered. Because no female-focused prison visiting programs existed yet, Louise started as an office volunteer and then came on staff to co-found the first women-focused Amicus community-prisoner matching program at Shakopee correctional facility. She was chosen to lead Amicus shortly afterward and under her leadership, Amicus grew from a relatively small prison-visiting program to a respected multifaceted reentry program.

In her role as a CIL Executive Leadership Fellow, Louise looks forward to connecting with graduate students interested in engaging with issues of the criminal justice system and/or nonprofit management.

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