Working at Modo Networks comes with a lot of perks; a stocked pantry, free pocket protectors, video game breaks, fun action figures at every desk, but our favorite is working with our non-profit customers. We have the rare opportunity to witness real life super heroes working every day to improve the communities around us.
Recently, we sat down with Doug Dunn, the Outreach Director at Exodus Ministries, to learn more about Exodus and their impact in our community. Please take some time to read our interview or listen to the audio. We promise it will not disappoint.
What exactly is Exodus and how long has it been around?
Exodus Ministries is a 5013C non-profit and it has been around since 1985, in 1987 it was incorporated and became Exodus and then it became Exodus Ministries after that.
Exodus Ministries is a comprehensive year-long faith based residential program for women. A discipleship ministry to formally incarcerated women and their children. We seek to empower them to achieve productive and fulfilling lives through Jesus Christ. We do that in a comprehensive way through our apartment complex in East Dallas, where we house 12 women [and their children]. Each woman who comes as new resident receives their own apartment fully furnished, fully stocked kitchen and pantry, linens, plates, glassware, cookware, silverware, everything they need. If they get there at lunch time, there are fixings for them to make lunch for them and their children. We [also] provide them with instruction in parenting. I currently teach faith and finance, which gives them a clue about the difference between a need and a want. [the class] Introduces them the concept of debt and interest and to avoid those things at any cost. We have had in the past instruction in self-defense, crochet, sewing, anger management. Wednesday evening, they always go to celebrate recovery. [Exodus] It seeks to address all the things they should have learned somewhat by osmosis between age 12 and 20 but because of drug abuse and other issues, some of their own choosing, some forced upon them by their circumstances, they didn’t get. Usually what we get is someone developmentally whose 12 or 15 years old but they may be 35 years old chronologically. We believe our purpose is to prepare them to be adults and parents to the children they have.
What is your role in the organization?
I am what is called a Director of Outreach. Part of that is reaching out to vendors such as Modo and other vendors to hopefully increase their level of interest in what we do and to raise the visibility of the organization in the community. If we have vendors interested in what we do, they tend to talk about their experience and alliance with other folks that they run into during the course of the day. It includes fundraising, ministering to the clients and ministering to the children. I am not a minister by trade but this is an all day, everyday discipleship program that we run. So, I find many opportunities to visit with the ladies and their kids. About matters that are spiritual, and matters that are practical.
When did you connect to Modo?
About 6 years ago I was working at a small law firm and at that time. They were using an IT vendor that was charging an exorbitant rate and not providing very good customer service. I took it upon myself to help the equity partners find a vendor that would provide better services at a reasonable rate and be more responsive. I interviewed a bunch of different folks and ended up with Mark and Roger. I reached out to them first when I was working at Neligan Foley. We had such a good experience with Modo in a for profit situation, that I couldn't see any reason why we couldn’t have a similar experience in a non-profit. The guys always struck me as being very conscientious, practical guys. They didn’t seem to have ice water in their veins. Their level of customer service is something I hadn’t encountered many times in my professional life. When I came to Exodus, our situation from a technological view was not in very good shape and we needed to make some changes. Since I had a good experience with Modo I reached out to them.
How do residents come to you?
There are fundamentally 2 ways they come to us. Because our recidivism rate is so low, we don’t have repeat customers. We don’t have ladies who go back to prison and then advertise how good Exodus was.
Several years ago, some of the staff went to various prisons around that house women, and left materials with the chaplains, case managers and wardens. And that material is still hanging around various prisons.
We’ve undertaken an effort to revitalize those materials. Our Case Manager and Children’s Director have gone out to some of the prisons and handed out updated materials and spoken to the ladies in prison.
The other way is they will write us a letter saying that they are interested. If they fit within the perimeters of the program, we will send them a lengthy application to start.
The other way is through Nexus Recovery Program. Nexus is a local non-profit program for women who have drug issues and their children. When they finish that program, 30-90 days, they are still in need of additional services, Exodus is an excellent way for them to continue their sobriety and recovery and, at the same time, be a part of the discipleship ministry.
What can they expect?
When they get here, they first get the key to their fully furnished apartment. It has been fully furnished by volunteers who donate their time, talents and treasures to clean the apartment thoroughly, paint the apartment, bring in the furnishings to make it a home for the ladies. Typically, the reaction we get is, they cry. Because the toilet is not sitting in the middle of their room, they have a door that actually locks. The toilet is not stainless steel, there is a bedroom with a door on it, their bed has a mattress with clean sheets, and it is home to them.
The program is 12 months long and broken down into several phases. The first phase is 45 days. During this time the women are not permitted to have cell phone or electronics. This time is intended for them to reconnect or for the first time connect with their children. All of these women are biologically parents, not all of them are Mothers. Some of them have never been Mothers to their children. This is first opportunity that they have ever had in a quiet place where they can begin the process of becoming a Mother. During the first 45 days, they can use telephones we provide to contact their families. They cannot have any overnight passes in the first 45 days and for the duration of the 12 months they are not permitted any romantic relationships of any kind or automobiles. They are relegated to public transportation and those 12 months are dedicated to them working on themselves and healing from all the stuff that’s happened to them. Many of them have been abused in every way imaginable. If you have any imagination it doesn’t take anything to imagine the hurt and the healing that needs to go on for them. So, that’s the program.
They can expect to be busy from morning until night. Every day they wake up between 5:30-6am, they get their kids ready for school they take them to the school 2 blocks down, or daycare directly behind our building. They are responsible for getting their kids dressed and ready for school. They're also responsible for fixing their meals. After the first 45 days, they are required to have a job or be diligently looking for a job. They can only work from 8am to 4pm because they must be Mothers after that. It is hard having a criminal record, especially a felony criminal record and find reasonable work that will support you. What they pay for after those first 45 days and after they have $500 in their account, they pay $20 a week for utilities. The apartments are furnished, their rent is paid for, we own the property, they can expect to take their kids to school, be at class. At 6:30pm class starts. We have class 5 days a week including Wednesday at celebrate recovery. Thursday is “Faith and Finance”, Tuesday night is topical discussions about important issues. Other class topics are bible study, and beyond beauty. They are busy from 6 in the morning to 8:30 at night. Many are not used to that. It is an adjustment - it is a very difficult program. Because there are many, many demands on them. They are required to satisfy the demands because that's what life is like on the outside.
What is your success rate?
Well, success is in the definition, if success is when women graduate from the program and are fully employed, we have a 100% success rate. For all women, whether they finish the 12-month program or they leave after 6-8 weeks, the recidivism rate is less than 5%. The recidivism rate in Texas for women is about 30%. So, our measure of success, based on that alone is very high. Based on employment, very high. Based on being able to manage on the outside is very high. They struggle, but by any measure the success rate is extremely high.
Do you have a favorite Exodus success story?
Well there are a lot of favorites, but I’ll tell you two.
The first success story is about a young lady whose name is Courtney. Courtney is now 32 years old. She came in 2013, she graduated in 2014, she had been addicted to prescription pain medicine, meth, heroine, she had used virtually every drug known to man. She has a 9 year-old son now. I don’t have any doubt that you know someone who loves the Lord as much as Courtney, that’s probably true, but I’m equally confident that you don’t know anyone who loves the Lord more than Courtney. She is an incredible woman. She’s been told, as have most of the other women been told, that she would never amount to anything. Well she is amounting to something. She is an incredible Mom, she's fully employed, and point in fact, she is our Case Manager [at Exodus Ministries].
One more story. This lady’s name is Terry. Terry came here when her son was 6 days old and she was a methamphetamine addict. Terry decided that her life needed to be different. She didn’t like school so she never finished high school. When she was in the program she started working for a lady who owned a cafe/bistro where folks in the office building would come and get lunch. She was a dishwasher. She earned minimum wage, $7.25/hour. She was promoted to cook. In February, she bought the bistro and is now a business owner. She is now operating the bistro. We’ve been there several times. Our staff goes over there to eat lunch occasionally. The customers come in and she introduces us, the folks who work at Exodus, as her family because she really has no family. Not any family that you would want to have, that is. And they all say, we love Terry, she is fabulous, we are so happy she’s here. And that’s how we feel about Terry. And those are just two examples of the kinds of things that happen at Exodus.
Can you describe the impact of your volunteers?
I think most non-profits would tell you that you can raise all the money in the world, but if you don’t have volunteers you’ll close your doors. When the women are in class from 6-8, the kids have to be somewhere. They can’t be in the class with their mom because it’s too distracting. We have a troop of volunteers who come in the evening and play “Duck, Duck Goose” and “Chutes and Ladders” and kickball to keep them entertained. At the same time, [they] pour into their lives. The kids are affirmed and at the same time begin to understand that there are people who don’t even know them that care about them. In their life, before Exodus they didn’t know anybody like that. Without volunteers to care for the children, and teach and mentor the children, Exodus is just another apartment complex in east Dallas.
The volunteers are faithful, reliable, come regularly, they teach the classes. They have birthday parties once a month for everyone who has a birthday that month. Volunteers take kids to Sunday school and Mom to church. They buy tickets for six flags and donate tickets to women conferences. Volunteers work in the storage rooms to get it organized.
How can people get involved?
There are 3 ways to get involved
- Donate time by volunteering to help mentor and care for the kids. A lot of these little boys don’t have a male influence in their lives and many of them are very angry and don’t know a godly man. If we have volunteers that can mentor the kids, that would be fabulous. Any aspect of life that we normally live, we provide to these ladies.
- Donate talents - Many folks donate their teaching talents for example.
- Treasures - Of course like any 5031c non-profit, their treasures. Even $20 a month goes a long way - it can supply a family food when they first get here.
If they want to volunteer, they can fill out the application on our website. If they want to donate, all they need to go online to Exodusminisitries.org.
If they want to get involved in our upcoming event at our sporting clay shooting challenge at East Sports. Put together a team of 4, and come on out.
How important is technology to the operation and administration at Exodus?
I don’t know how any organization of any size can operate without adequate technology. In order for us to keep track of donors, volunteers, maintain mailing lists, contact lists, to send out our monthly newsletter and communicate with our supporters. If we don’t have technology that works for us, we are a boat without a rudder. Technology is critically important. Without worrying every time we turn on the computer that it’s not working, or we might lose a signal or concerned we won’t have back up in the event catastrophic happens. Without those things in place, we can’t operate in an effective way. I guess we could go back to rock slabs and chisels, but that’s just not as efficient as computers.
What value has Modo brought to Exodus?
I can’t say enough good things about Modo and the guys who work there. They have been incredibly gracious to Exodus Ministries in so many ways. They are our Johnny on the spot. When we have an issue, we call Support and there is someone there to answer the phone. They can usually walk us through a solution to the issues we have by remotely logging in. There is no question that the leadership at Modo Networks is what sets the tone for the rest of the guys that work there. We couldn’t be more pleased with the service, encouragement and help that we’ve gotten from Modo. If we were a big company, Modo would probably have to hire more people. It is almost like family. They are as concerned about our needs as we are. Candidly, they do fabulous work. We are very, very pleased.
Do you have any upcoming events?
We have 3 annual events. you just missed our socializing event at Top Golf in March.
May 27th is the sporting clay challenge. you can go to ExodusMinistries.org/events/clay-shoot and register.
In September, we will have the 2nd annual Exodus Ministries power breakfast. You heard it here first. Last year it was at Lakewood Country Club. The folks who were there had the opportunity to meet and hear the stories of 3 of the women who are in the program. It is a great opportunity to learn more about Exodus and the women whose lives are changed by it.
Of course, don’t forget North Texas Giving Day September 14th. Make sure that you remember Exodus Ministries when you make donations. We are beneficiaries of the services of communities’ foundation of Texas, any donation we received is matched by a percentage by the Communities Foundation of Texas.