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People are invited to volunteer with prison Toastmasters programs at institutions near Routes 2 and 495 and in Gardner on Monday through Thursday evenings.

Through Toastmasters, incarcerated people learn skills in preparation to return to the community, such as self-confidence, leadership, critical thinking, planning and teamwork. Volunteers make a difference in someone’s life through encouragement, caring and mentorship. More than 90 percent of all incarcerated people will return to the community.

“Mentoring in prison is an opportunity to give people a hand up. It makes me aware of the privileges in my life, and to feel more gratitude while helping others. It is the most powerful volunteer experience I have ever had,” said Susan Tordella, a prison volunteer.

Prospective volunteers must enjoy teaching, speaking extemporaneously and encouraging others to set and achieve goals. Training is provided by the Department of Corrections and by participating in prison Toastmasters program. Volunteers are expected to mentor at least two meetings a month. People new to Toastmasters are welcome to volunteer.

To visit and for information on programs at 12 correctional institutions in Eastern Massachusetts, go to: www.d31toastmastersprisonvolunteers.wordpress.com. Massachusetts is an international leader for prison Toastmasters programs. Contact Susan.Tordella @gmail. com, 978-846-2811.

“Prospective volunteers are encouraged to explore the opportunity by visiting once, with no obligation. We find that by visiting a program once, a person will immediately realize if it’s for them,” said Tordella. “Correctional officers closely supervise our programs, volunteers work in pairs, and incarcerated people who are interested in growth and development attend, so our volunteers feel safe in the prison environment.”

Founded in 1924 in a California YMCA, nearly 300,000 Toastmasters belong to more than 14,000 community and corporate clubs in 122 countries, and some 100 prison programs. People are welcome to visit clubs that do not restrict membership.

For information, go to www.toastmasters.org and click on “Find a club.”

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