Dear Friends of The Sunny Center,
- We marked our fifth year in operation, welcoming exonerees from around the globe across our threshold and into our home.
- We were able to purchase the first permanent home of the Sunny Center.
- We observed the first anniversary of the exoneree community residence in Tampa, FL - the first and only of its kind in the world!
And now, for some highlights from the year 2019.
Within two months of our launching of the exoneree community residence in Tampa, FL, our exoneree outreach coordinator Dorothy had gotten residents settled and the residence was at capacity. Dorothy works very hard to make the transition to life in the community a smooth one for exonerees as they resettle and make our residence their home.
We had a very busy, activist month of February! We appeared before the UN for a special screening of the film Fallout, which highlights the challenges that exonerees face in adjusting to post-release life. We spoke about the need to recognize the wrongfully-convicted as torture victims by international authorities. We also spoke at the Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva University and the Columbia University Law School, both in New York City. And the Sunny Center and our work were featured in a number of media outlets, including the New York Times and Now This.
Samantha and Charles became the first couple to volunteer together at the Sunny Center and we hope someday they will return. We are very proud of our volunteers and very grateful for their dedication and continued support and service to the mission and goals of the Sunny Center. They are an integral part of the work we do and we couldn't achieve what we do without their tenacity, compassion and efforts.
In March, we also traveled to Brussels to attend the 7th World Congress against the Death Penalty hosted by ECPM, an international meeting of abolitionist activists and a forum used to mobilize public opinon against the death penalty and encourage countries to make concrete commitments against it.
In April we spoke to a delegation of graduate social work students visiting from East Strousburg University under the guidance of our friend Dr. Lloyd Lyter, who directs the social work program there. The last stop on their trip around Ireland was NUI Galway where Sunny and Peter, as well as Sunny Center Coordinator Anne Driscoll, LCSW, shared their thoughts on the challenges exonerees face in transitioning to life on the outside and how social workers might assist them. Students also heard talks by Dr. Brian Farrell, who teaches law at the University of Iowa and founded the Innocence Project of Iowa, and Professor Caroline McGregor, who is director of the social work program at NUI Galway.
Sunny, Peter and Dorothy attended the annual Innocence Network conference in Atlanta where there were 900 attendees – the largest gathering the Innocence Network has ever hosted. We had an amazingly productive time. We met with new exonerees like Richard Phillips, who served 45 years – the most amount of time served in a wrongful conviction in the US and with other like-minded activists such as representatives from the Japanese Innocence Project. This is truly a GLOBAL MOVEMENT!!!
Our furry and feathered friends are all part of our extensive Sunny Center family and one guy that was at the heart of it all was Woody. Trained as a service dog for Sunny, Woody was also the love bug that required no training in the heart department, we were sad to share the news of his passing in June. He crossed over the rainbow bridge and he is very much missed.
We moved into a new home and so did all our furry and feathered friends. Our volunteers and friends helped us get the doghouses set up and the new henhouse installed, as well as a new cat door for our kitty friends to come and go through. Everyone is now happy!
During September, there was a volunteer corps of helpers hailing from as close as a neighboring house to as far away as Cuba. Our volunteers help with daily operations in Ireland, as well as those in Tampa. And in September, we added a new volunteer lawyer Daniela who is helping us in Florida with operational matters, as they arise. We are thankful for all their help! We know we couldn't achieve what we have without them!
October was a particularly busy month of activism! Sunny’s story at a Moth Mainstage event was very well received in London and Sunny received a standing ovation. Then we traveled to New Jersey to collaborate with the Centurion Ministries – the oldest innocence organization in the world, having been founded in Princeton, New Jersey in 1983. We were the guest speakers at the Centurion Ministries Gala. And we met with our board in New York to discuss our strategic plans for the remainder of this year and the coming year of 2020, as well as to celebrate the literary accomplishment of our board member Martin Garbus.
In November, both Peter and Sunny were welcomed at the European Innocence Network Conference held this year in Amsterdam. While there, we reconnected with our former exoneree guest Ina - our first female exoneree guest at the Sunny Center. And our reunion with Ina reminded us of all the exonerees we have connected with over the years, many of whom we have personally hosted in our home. We look forward to all the other exonerees who will cross our threshold in the years to come and be welcomed in.
In December, we have been making preparations for the winter, getting the furnace updated and a new propane gas tank installed. We want our home to be warm and cozy for the holidays and for the exoneree visitors we are expecting to join us. We are blessed to be able to share the magic of this place where peace meets love and rainbows appear.
IT'S THE SEASON OF GIVING!
We can scarcely believe 2019 is nearly over! And what a year it's been!!! We have never felt more proud of our past or more hopeful about the future. As we look back over the year, we are gratified that our Sunny Center family continues to grow and flourish. And as we look ahead to 2020, we anticipate many new developments, more guests, and meaningful connections.
We couldn’t do the work without your help.
Every gift matters. Every donation helps us to help others. And we hope you will consider the Sunny Center for your year-end giving. And we especially welcome recurring donations, as they are the gifts that keep on giving!
We thank you for your continued interest and support.
From all of us here at the Sunny Center, and all of those who have been helped by your generosity, we wish you a Happy Holiday Season and Healthy New Year!
Peace and Love,
Sunny and Peter