Women are the fastest growing population in prison, with nearly 20,000 women in state and federal prisons in Texas alone. Devastatingly, their minor children have become one of the most at-risk, yet least visible populations of children. They are three to six times more likely to go to prison than their peers.
In response to this need, ORIX employees selected Girls Embracing Mothers (GEM) to be the beneficiary of the 2017 ORIX Foundation Holiday Campaign. Brittany Byrd, who experienced the incarceration of her own mother as a young girl, started the organization at a grassroots level while serving as associate counsel in the ORIX legal department. Her fellow employees came to know the mission and the girls that GEM serves during Brittany’s time at ORIX. Inspired by the organization’s work to empower girls in grades K-12 with mothers in prison to break the cycle of incarceration, ORIX employees have continued to support the cause as Brittany now works full time as the executive director of GEM.
From September to December 2017, ORIX employees raised $124,500 to grow GEM’s programming. “We can now expand our reach to add more girls, partner with more prisons, and continually evaluate our programs to ensure our services benefit the community by stemming the tide of recidivism and preventing a future generation of girls from entering the criminal justice system.” Brittany said.
GEM has partnered with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) for almost five years, and recently secured a partnership with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The ORIX donation will help GEM build its outreach and expand programming into at least two federal prisons in Texas over the next two years, and at least one more state prison. GEM will also use the funds to hire a former client as its new Program Coordinator.
“We are so eager to be able to use the funds to serve more women and girls,” Brittany added. “We are extremely grateful to ORIX for believing in our mission and helping our GEMs shine bright.”
In addition to the $124,500 raised in the holiday campaign, ORIX employees provided funds to fulfill holiday wishes for GEM children. The ORIX Foundation annual holiday fundraising campaign started in 2009 with a contribution to the North Texas Food Bank. Each year since, ORIX employees vote on a recipient and raise funds throughout the holiday season. The 2017 holiday drive culminated at ORIX USA’s annual holiday party, where employees presented a check for $124,500 to Brittany Byrd and the GEM team.
“It has been exciting to see Brittany and her team grow their impact on incarcerated women and their daughters,” said Josh Mayfield, Managing Director, ORIX USA and President of the ORIX Foundation. “We hope the funds help GEM build their capacity, change more lives and grow awareness of their mission among the general population.”