Shortly after retiring to Williamsburg, VA in 1994, Richard Orr set out to implement and coordinate a mentoring program to benefit the local criminal corrections program, Colonial Community Corrections. He presented a unique notion of mentoring, one adopted from his years of mentoring pre-release prisoners in New Jersey. His stated goal is to provide a safe place for people in the criminal justice system to learn to make better decisions.
Orr convinced Colonial Community Corrections to adopt his program through his passion for and his commitment to encouraging those whom society may have given up on to become self-reliant and resourceful. Orr and his team of volunteers were able to officially start the program early in 1995.
In modest ways, Orr finds success through his mentoring program. He derives his satisfaction in seeing people with whom he has established relationships learn to control their anger or take responsibility for their actions. He tells a true story of a mentor he trained who probably provides the only source of comfort to an incarcerated woman. The mentor meets with the woman once a week to act as sounding board and to be a source of unbiased human exchange. Orr acknowledges that no immediate success may be measured from this mentor's efforts but hopes the flame of compassion will spark a change of lifestyle or ignite aspiration in a woman whose future seems bleak.
As in the development of any new program, there are the hurdles to overcome. Orr's dedication to the program has been inspirational. He spends countless hours recruiting and training mentors and many more hours pitching the program to referral sources.
Clients are people who have been convicted of misdemeanors or of nonviolent felonies for which they have not been incarcerated. The mentors are community volunteers who are trained to listen to the clients' problems and concerns and to help people put their criminal past behind them. Client participation is voluntary and confidential.
In addition to his ongoing commitment to providing supportive and unprejudiced guidance to people convicted of crimes in the Greater Williamsburg area, Orr volunteers with a grassroots organization in the area named Alltogether. The objective of this group is to bring people of various racial backgrounds together. The proactive organization fervently addresses racial inequities, and has held area wide meetings addressing topic such as: religious diversity, economics and job opportunities, educational attainment, health and housing and community leadership in government and business.