October Newsletter: A Time to Heal

Oct 15, 2020 | Newsletter

Dear Friends of The Sunny Center,

The light of the harvest moon shines upon us all. It is one of the gifts of the harvest season that we can all enjoy and share.

Autumn is the time to harvest what we’ve sown. And this year, The Sunny Center is harvesting some wonderful things. We received the gift of a new website, gained new friends who provided us with support in so many ways in spite of, and perhaps because of, the COVID-19 pandemic. We spread the message of The Sunny Center worldwide through events that went online and, thanks to Zoom, social media and YouTube, reached audiences that we normally wouldn’t reach.

This month, we’ll update you on how the Exonerees in our community are faring. We have a special message from one of our Exoneree family. And we’ll show how you can help an Exoneree directly with things they need to start and maintain a healthy life.

Keep reading!


A New Website

We kept it under wraps for a few months, and now we’re so proud to announce that The Sunny Center has a new website at a new address: https://sunnycenter.org.

But don’t worry! If you go to the old link it will still bring you to the new one. We’ve got you covered!

The website was an incredibly generous gift from Venerable Robina Courtin, a Buddhist monk whose foundation, The Bodhichitta Trust, funded the work of a gifted web designer,  Arnoud Smits, who designed and built the site. They gave us an improved, incredibly beautiful website that is so much easier to navigate. And it now has room to grow, so that we can offer more information and services directly to Exonerees online in the future. Thank you Robina! Thank you Arnoud!

Around The Sunny Healing Center

Last month, we reported that the new polytunnel was up. This month, we got the raised beds and soil in, and we are planting our winter vegetables and flowers!

Our stalwart local Volunteer, Sara, spent an afternoon with Sunny helping to transplant all of the little kales and cabbages and spinach that Sunny has been nurturing all summer into the polytunnel.


Around The Tampa Living Center

A photo of a small yellow house with a white picket fence around it.

We are very fortunate that both Paul and Robert have generously used their skills and talents to improve and maintain the grounds of living areas of the community. Thank you, Paul! Thank you, Robert!

Robert

Obtaining one’s identification papers is always challenging for Exonerees. During Covid, it is even more so! Thankfully, our coordinator, Dorothy, is there to help navigate the process. And this month, Robert was able to go to get his driver’s license!

Congratulations to Robert on obtaining his driver’s license!

Paul

Thank you to Paul for filling in when Dorothy was unavailable to take people to their appointments.

Danny

Danny got his hospital bed! A big thank you to Centurion Ministries for providing the funds, and to Dorothy for having the bright idea to rent a hospital bed. It is our hope that Danny will continue to improve and be able to go back to his regular bed in a few months. Keep up the good work, Danny!

Danny is home from rehab, and, with the help of the other residents, he is improving so much that he is getting ready to try swimming to build up his strength again. Clemente, who recently moved on from the Tampa community into a lovely new home with his girlfriend, has invited Danny to come over and use their pool!

The Community is growing in the ways that we envisioned when we originally dreamed of being able to provide a place for Exonerees to live in community together.

Each and every one of you should give yourself a pat on the back and take pride in having been part of making this experiment possible and making this big dream come true!

The challenge was not just to provide a place to live but to provide a place that offers the support, guidance and security, where a person could develop the skills and the mindset to heal and to manage their life within the parameters of what is available to them. At times, it has been a steep learning curve. And we are very grateful to everyone, especially the Exonerees and our supporters, who have participated in this process.

Special shout out to Don Miggs of the Miggs and Swigg radio program and the Bartolo family for having the faith to invest in our dream!


Exoneree Wish Lists

It can sometimes take time for service groups and even The Sunny Center to get Exonerees the things they need as they settle in to new lives. And many of the little things that we all need – from cleaning supplies to bedsheets to pet supplies – can really add up quickly! That’s why we have started a Wish List program. You can help participating Exonerees directly by purchasing things they need or want—things that will make starting a life of freedom a little bit easier, and things to help them feel more normal again. It can be so difficult to just feel “normal” after such a long time! Each Exoneree has an individual Amazon Wish List.

Paul

Paul joined The Sunny Center community earlier this year after being exonerated. He generously donates so much of his time to making improvements around the Living Center. Many of the supplies he pays for out of his own pocket.

Click here to go to Paul’s wish list.

Danny

Danny also joined us earlier this year. He is settling back into the Living Center community after overcoming several health problems. Danny is in need of items that will make his recovery more comfortable.

Click here to go to Danny’s wish list.

Follow the link beside each Exoneree’s name to go to their Amazon Wish List. Then, select the item you want to purchase for them. The item will ship to their personal address. These gifts go 100% to the individual Exoneree.

Thank you so much for supporting Exonerees! And don’t forget, you can purchase through smile.amazon.com and select The Sunny Center Foundation USA, Inc. as your charity of choice.


Our Volunteers & Supporters

Ireland

Lelia, one of our on-site volunteers at the Sunny Healing Center.

We have made many improvements at the Healing Center this month thanks to our on-site volunteers.

Margaret continues to shop and deliver our groceries and always has time for a chat.

Tom comes by to help with any heavy work and always brings a fresh loaf of bread, a carton of milk and his very own freshly laid eggs.

This month, Lelia came to help Sunny in the kitchen, giving the fridge a good cleaning out and helping with the general cleanup.

Sara, who is also our homeopathic consultant, helped Sunny to gather all the edible plants and get them into the polytunnel to feed us for the winter.

United States

Across the pond in Florida, our newest volunteer, Joseph, has been working with the men at the community on their cellphone and computer skills.

In Georgia, a volunteer attorney has been helping one of our Exonerees with some civil matters.

In California, a team of pro bono attorneys is working with another client, whom we hope will be released early next year and will come to the Sunny Living Center in Tampa.

Another big shout-out to Centurion Ministries for sending lovely care packages to the men at the Tampa community!

And huge gratitude to our beloved board member, Peter Tunney, for continuing to educate people about the Sunny Center and our mission, and bringing us more support through his art. As a result, we received two very generous donations this month.

Sending huge thanks and gratitude to Peter Tunney!

Join Us

Each and every one of you can participate in activism by talking to your friends and social media connections about The Sunny Center, our work and our mission. Send them to the website where they can learn more and donate!

We also had a couple of subscribers donate their air miles. Although we can’t use them at the moment, they will be very important in the future. Thank you to those who have pledged air miles! Contact us to learn how you can donate air miles.


Our Furry & Feathered Friends

We have four new young hens! Peter brought them home in boxes. This time, Rhode Island Reds were not available, so we have a mixture! They are settling in to their new home nicely. Mrs. Chuckles, the senior hen, is teaching them the pecking order. There really is such a thing as a pecking order among chickens! It is amusing to see her herding them into the house and then out of the house again. She is definitely the boss! But that is how it should be, since she is the eldest.

We haven’t named them just yet but stay tuned! Have a look at their portraits below and let us know if you have any ideas for names for them.


Our Activism

Wrongful Conviction Day, on October 2, was an online event this year. Sunny participated in a Zoom session with a number of other women Exonerees and victims of injustice organized by the Innocence Project and Healing Justice.

When a person is wrongly convicted, we feel helpless and that all the choices have been taken away from us when we’re incarcerated. But when I was sentenced and placed on death row, I realized that we do still have choices. We can choose how we respond to our circumstances.

Sunny also participated in a conference on harsh women’s sentencing sponsored by Cornell University anti-death penalty group. The discussion centered around the death penalty and LWOP (life without parole).  After the conference, the organizers were concerned about having re-traumatized the living witnesses that gave testimony during the conference. They kindly offered a special gift to each participant in order that she might find some healing in a massage or some other self-care.

Sunny has been invited to work with the presenters at Cornell to try to create a program for helping to prevent and to modify the re-traumatization that inevitably occurs after having given such a testimony.

Peter has been working remotely with our clients, in Ireland and in the U.S., to help them manage their current situation. Normally, we would be doing this on a face-to-face basis. But that is not possible now, so we have adapted. One thing we can always count on is change. And we always must be ready and willing to adapt. We learned that in prison, and upon release from prison. And it is that lesson that continues to help us to function and grow through, and with, our new circumstances.

We use Zoom to connect with some clients, and many more connect by phone. With the amount of extra communication services needed, like Skype and Zoom, there is an extra monthly cost involved. Your donations are helping to directly support the work we do with our Exoneree clients. Thank you!


Video: Survival Yoga

Sometimes we feel stuck and can’t make a choice. How do we proceed? This is where mindfulness comes in. By practicing mindfulness, we can simplify things. That makes life less overwhelming and easier to deal with.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for updates!

Exoneree Feature: Uriah

A young man sits at the dinner table.

Uriah was the first Exoneree that the Sunny Center Foundation was able to bring to the Sunny Healing Center in Ireland. He helped to plant the first trees and fill up the first polytunnel with earth so Sunny could begin growing our organic, healthy food. You can see a short video about his stay on our YouTube channel. Uriah also wrote a book about his exoneree experience, which you can purchase here.

We are very proud of Uriah.

Uriah’s Message

My name is Uriah Courtney. It would be a lie if I said my life today is free from the scars of the past. Unfortunately, scars don’t just disappear. They tend to stick around as a frequent reminder of the pain which caused it.

Thankfully, I have been a free man now for over seven years and those scars are feeling less painful. I’m married to an amazing woman and have two amazing kids. I have a great job and a really good support system consisting of family and friends from the California Innocence Project, The Sunny Center Foundation and others in the Innocence Movement. Life for me now is what one would hope and pray for after surviving a wrongful conviction.

But if it weren’t for all those who helped me out along the way I tremble to think about how things could have gone.

Uriah Courtney


Stay Connected

Did you know that chickens dance? They dance around in a circle to get to know each other and establish a pecking order!

This has been a remarkable year in so many ways. The Sunny Center was not able to host Exonerees at our Healing Center in Ireland, and we weren’t able to travel to events and visit clients as we normally do.

Instead, we have found new ways to work, meet new friends and found amazing support from our volunteers everywhere! We are so amazed and thankful at the continuing support that you all have shown us. It means so much. Thank you for the bountiful harvest of love and support that we continue to receive from you, our supporters.

Keep that Love coming! And please, visit our newly updated website! Tell your friends and share it on social media. Everyone can do that. And it all helps. We are a family. We are a community. It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a community to help an Exoneree.

Thank you for being part of our community and our family!

Stay safe and well!

Peace and Love,
Sunny and Peter

Wishing You a Summer of Healing, Hope and Joy

While the start of summer certainly feels much calmer and more certain than it did last year, plenty of activity is going on at The Sunny Center!

More Than 2,700 Exonerees Need Your Help

The need for resources and change within the system is immense. But together, we can start making a difference right away!

You Can Make A Difference for Exonerees Right Now

We are happy and hopeful that we can soon return to working in person with fellow Exonerees. But you can help us right now, even from far away.

You Are Beautiful

It doesn’t matter what shape you are or what size you are. It matters how you feel inside. You are who you are. That’s you. The beauty comes from the energy that you radiate from within.

Exoneree Terry Wanzer, In His Own Words

Terry Wanzer was exonerated in 1996. But it took more than 24 years for the state of Georgia to clear his record. Read Terry’s story.

Celebrating Spring With Our Furry & Feathered Friends

With spring well underway, we thought it a great time to update you on how all of our friends at the Healing Center are doing!

Our Activism: Moving the Needle for Exonerees

March was another great month for activism. We got the word out about the struggle that Exonerees face after being freed, and raised awareness of the need for housing, counseling, medical care, and more – all the things that humans have a right to, and that have been denied to Exonerees for so long.

Watch: Dealing With Grief

It seems these days there is more and more to grieve about: the loss of our normal way of life, the inability to gather together. And sometimes we have to grieve over the emotions that we have to put aside until another time.

One Year On, A Silver Lining During the Time of Covid

Finding a connection even during social distancing. Connection is at the heart of what we do at The Sunny Center. And the pandemic, while making it harder to connect for everyone, made things especially hard for Exonerees. Whether they were recently released or have...

Exoneree David Stonecypher, In His Own Words

David Stonecypher was exonerated in 2019 after more than a decade behind bars in the Philippines. Like many Exonerees, he is facing the challenge of building a new life in a world that has changed dramatically while he was struggling to prove his innocence.

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