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Osiris: Take a Chance, Change the World

January 27, 2011

Guest post by Robyn McCullough

Recently, Amicus staff had the pleasure of sitting down with Bill Roddy and his wife, Gail, of Osiris Organization to hear about the good work that they’re doing with young people in Hennepin County.  To say that the meeting was inspirational would be an understatement.  This couple is passionate about effecting positive change in their community and they are literally living out their passion through the operation of Osiris—a nonprofit agency they founded in 1997.  Since then, Osiris has been implementing change and helping young people to improve their lives through, amongst other things, mentoring and technology and entrepreneurial outreach programs.

“I never felt fulfilled professionally—I was making money, but not making a difference.”  -Bill Roddy

Bill was raised on the Westside of Chicago.  He came up under the guidance of his grandparents and his aunts—whom he affectionately referred to as the “law enforcers” of his upbringing.  Later in life, he came to realize that his aunts weren’t, in fact, enforcing any family “laws” but rather instilling powerful family values that he carries with him and abides by to this day.  Amongst these values, Bill’s family taught him self-reliance—he learned not to accept anything until it was earned.  Today, he is sharing this value and others with all of the young people who come to be involved with Osiris.

Gail and Bill began to hatch the idea for Osiris after they spent a year and a half volunteering at Hennepin County Home School (HCHS, a juvenile residential facility in Minnetonka, MN). They noticed a high rate of recidivism for the young people who came through the program and a corresponding need for after-care services and more support upon transition in order to ensure a successful reentry experience.  Of course, young people who find themselves in contact with the justice system have many basic needs that need to be met in order to begin an attempt at successful reentry; one of these is the need for a job, a way to make money, a means to become self-reliant—that same value that Bill’s family taught him so many years ago in Chicago.  With this in mind, Gail and Bill founded Osiris and began providing youth from the HCHS with a chance to get a job and begin earning money through the technology program.

Osiris’ technology program works in conjunction with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB).  After receiving thorough technology training, Osiris participants become employees at one of 27 computer centers located in MPRB’s public parks and during their shifts, provide technical support to the general public who utilize these free computer centers.  The experience acts as a “test run” for the real world experience of holding a job and every young person involved has the full support of Gail, Bill, and the rest of the Osiris staff as well as, and perhaps most importantly, graduates of the program.  This full-circle approach seems to be one of the most powerful aspects of the program.  The younger, newer participant has someone to look up to, learn from and relate to; the older, more seasoned mentor learns what it means to be a good leader and a positive role model as well as how rewarding this experience can be.

Gail and Bill took a chance when they founded Osiris; they quit their for-profit sector jobs and left behind all of the security that goes along with a corporate salary and benefits.  All of us on staff are so inspired by these two amazing people and their highly-impactful program.  As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world…” The Roddys and their Osiris are living proof of this statement; after nearly 14 years of operation, Osiris Organization is still going strong and impacting the lives of many young people through mentoring, technology and the influence of good old fashioned family values.  It’s safe to say that today Bill and Gail are making a difference—a big difference in the lives of young people and in their community at large.

Find out more about Osiris by visiting their website at www.osirisorganization.org

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ray Wiedmeyer permalink
    January 27, 2011 11:34 am

    Great inspiration after spending yesterday with the Second Chance Coalition Day on the Hill and coming home a bit discouraged. Trying to change government policy by changing politician’s minds feels like such a daunting task. It is good to know how much real change can come from a couple of dedicated individuals. Thanks to Bill and Gail for their work and thanks to you for sharing their story.

    • January 27, 2011 3:05 pm

      Thank you, Ray, for being a great advocate for the formerly incarcerated and their plights in this world! Second Chance Day on the Hill was a powerful event yesterday, but we know what you mean about being discouraged and echo what you said about Bill and Gail. We’ve got to keep doing the hard but rewarding work on both ends–with young people and adults–in order to see the real change!

  2. David Montrel permalink
    January 27, 2011 1:35 pm

    Thank you for bringing a deserving organization into the spotlight; as a former resident of HCHS I am more than aware of the glaring need for direct and deliberate involvement in the lives of those who attempt the transition home from incarceration. I wish there had been a program such as this for me, but I am glad we are now making efforts like Osiris. Thanks for the info.

    • January 27, 2011 3:12 pm

      David, thanks so much for your kind and insightful comment. Osiris is an amazing organization doing amazing things with young people in the community. The transition from incarceration back into the community is often considered to be the hardest part of doing time and unless people get the support they need, succeeding on the outside can be very tough. Congrats to you for making it and we wish you all the best!

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