Dear Friends of The Sunny Center,
Spring has arrived at the Sunny Center both indoors and outdoors. To be greeted by the sunny yellow daffodils on our windowsill and the rising sun on the horizon inspires both hope and joy! And it goes without saying that these are two things we all very much need in these trying times. We are taking these days of social distancing as a special and important opportunity to enjoy nature’s bounty as a balm to the soul.
And when we all need to practice staying in place for everyone’s health and safety, we are very mindful of the many exonerees who may feel especially vulnerable. We are also trying to take special measures to keep them connected with the exoneree community, yet safe from the virus. Of course, our work relies on the goodwill of people like you. So please consider helping someone like our exoneree resident Paul Hildwin, who was released to the Sunny Center community this past month after wrongfully serving 35 years, including 29 years on death row, with a gift to the Sunny Center. It can make the world of difference to people like Paul. He spoke about what it means for him to have a home like the Sunny Center community residence, saying, “Last night, I made a cup of coffee and sat outside on the porch of my little house, just sitting down not thinking about anything, and it really hit me, “Dude you’re free.” It was amazing. It made me cry. I’m living in a beautiful little house and help with handy work for four houses that are all for exonerees. Me doing a little handyman work is my way of giving back a little bit and contributing.”
OUR EXONEREE GUESTS AND VISITORS
Paul Hildwin celebrated his 60th birthday this month at the Sunny Center community residence in Tampa, FL when he reunited with his friend, fellow death row exoneree Clemente Aguirre, and fellow exoneree community resident Danny Brown. This was an especially sweet birthday, as Paul, because in addition to celebrating his first birthday in decades as a free man, he is also a four time cancer survivor. Even in the time of COVID-19, Paul is finding fellowship and community at the Sunny Center although he says he keeps his distance! He has been welcomed by the other three residents, including Clemente and Danny, and Paul has adopted a cat that he named Freedom! He is enjoying having his own home where he can cook and exercise, enjoying the simple pleasures of freedom.
We are thrilled for Paul who is surrounded and supported by his fellow community residents. But we are also mindful of all the many other exonerees who may be struggling with isolation, loneliness, anxiety and fear. We are doing our very best to bridge the distance by phone, Facetime, text and email. We want to keep connected from a distance.
We are grateful to be the beneficiaries of the kindness of volunteers, including Sara who has been making trips to the shops to keep us in provisions! Thank you! However, in accordance with practicing social distancing, we are suspending volunteers being physically at the Sunny Center until it is safe to do so again. In the meantime, we do have volunteers who are supporting operations remotely, including our volunteer board of directors! And we are grateful for their assistance!!!
OUR FURRY AND FEATHERED FRIENDS
Sunny was invited by The Trailblazers to host a Zoom gathering for more than 120 women from Britain to Bahrain to discuss how to manage isolation in these social distancing days. Sunny was in solitary confinement for five years and learned how to cope with loneliness and social isolation through meditation, yoga, mind training and prayer. She was happy to be able to use technology to share her experience to help others! She is also doing a video yoga class for exonerees to help them manage the challenges of these days of COVID-19.
We are keeping abreast of efforts to assist the wrongfully convicted and those who suffer on death row. And since we cannot gather in groups in person, we are learning to gather in groups online. In the past month we have directed many of our efforts to assist individuals who have been wrongfully convicted but have not yet been exonerated. They need support and hope that they will not be forgotten.
We hope you will not forget them either. Please consider remembering them and supporting them with a donation.
Thank you for your continued interest and support. Thank you for being part of this wonderful network around the world of like-minded activists for justice. Thank you for joining us in hope for a more peaceful, loving, healthy and fair place on earth.
Peace and Love,
Sunny and Peter