Donald is a volunteer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Custody Division. Don retired from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, in 1982, after 25 years of service. The very next day, Don was working in Los Angeles County Jails, with our inmates, as a volunteer Assistant Chaplain. He ministered as a Chaplain to inmates at Pitchess Detention Center and Men’s Central Jail from 1982 to 2000. In 2000, Don Dickinson took charge of a new all-volunteer program called “Family Outreach.”
As the Sheriff's Department moves incarcerated inmates to facilities throughout the County, to meet ever evolving and daunting security requirements, families run the very real risk of traveling great distances, only to find that they’ve arrived at the wrong jail. Many times visiting family members are grieving, traumatized, or angry. Factor in frustration of a long drive, waiting lines and the possibility that the inmate will be discovered as no longer at that facility (and is now fifty miles away) and already mounting tensions can reach a “boiling point.” Recognizing the powerful and potentially emotionally overwhelming dynamics in these situations and in an effort to provide intervention for visitors in need, in November of 2000, the Sheriff's Department's Religious and Volunteer Services first initiated the Family Outreach Program. Volunteer Chaplains with previous experience working with incarcerated men and women in Los Angeles County Jails were offered the opportunity to volunteer in the program. Don Dickinson was the first to volunteer his service in this new program. He “took ownership,” and recruited enough qualified volunteers to ensure the program’s continued success. Since that time, ever increasing scores of Family Outreach Program volunteers work at the Men's Central Jail and Pitchess Detention Center visiting centers, under Don Dickenson’s tutelage, every day these facilities are open.
The Family Outreach Program, and Don Dickinson, provide a sorely needed source of aid and counseling to the loved ones of inmates who come to the facility visiting centers. Devastated or distraught persons are aided by teams of volunteers who offer emotional and spiritual counseling, alleviate anxiety by providing general visiting related information, instruct family members in how to "place money on the books", entertain children with videos and coloring hand-outs, help with keys locked in cars, assist with vehicles which won’t start and generally lend a helping hand to those who don't have the emotional stability at the time, to adequately care for themselves and/or their children.
Since 1982, as a volunteer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Custody Division, Don Dickinson has donated nearly 50,000 hours of volunteer service to the men and women of Los Angeles County. Don says that he donates his time and efforts in an attempt to save souls "The Lord is the reason I volunteer my time and effort. I want to lead as many people as I can, to Our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is very, very, rewarding to me, to see lives change for the better."