NetSuite Volunteer Spotlight: Donna Criswell Helping Women Inmates Change Their Lives
NetSuite.org’s SuiteImpact initiative has taken off, with employees from every NetSuite office from across the world participating. For Global Impact Week alone, more than 1,000 people volunteered time in their local communities. Here, we take the time to get to know one of our SuiteImpact Volunteers, Donna Criswell.
What is your position at NetSuite?
I call myself a Cloud Evangelist (known inside NetSuite as a Presales Solutions Consultant).
Tell me a little about your day to day at NetSuite.
I work with sales reps to meet and understand the business needs of their prospects and determine the best solution for them within NetSuite. Also, on most opportunities, I work closely with members of our partner community to round out the solution for our prospects.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Talking and meeting with prospects. I love hearing about their business problems and figuring out how we can leverage our platform to help them solve their unique challenges. Crafting the solution is fun to me.
How long have you been at the company?
I started at NetSuite in June of 2012.
What did you do before NetSuite?
I have been in presales for almost my entire career. Most of my career has been working with Oracle E-Business Suite, but I found my way home to NetSuite eventually.
What type of volunteering do you do outside of NetSuite?
Many of my weekends are spent with incarcerated women who are in maximum security prisons around the State of Texas. For the past 11 years, I have been going into prisons and working with these women to grow in their faith, as well as teaching them how they can change their lives, their attitudes and their stories. We teach them life skills and how to address things like anger, bitterness, hate and low self-esteem – things that keep them in a pit of despair and hopelessness. We encourage them to continue their education and support each other in a very dark place like prison.
What was the catalyst for getting involved?
A friend invited me to help out one weekend when they desperately needed more volunteers for one of their outreach programs. Once there, I instantly fell in love with the women I met at the prison. At that point, I knew I wanted to be there for them, to let them know they are worthy and not throwaways as some in society deem them to be. I wanted to be part of helping the inmates grow in their faith, find freedom (even while behind bars), and to find the hope and strength they need to never come back to prison again once they get out.
Tell us about your favorite experience as a volunteer?
Seeing changed lives with my own two eyes. Most of the women I work with have been in prison for a number of years and still have many more left on their sentence. When we first meet them, they are typically defiant, angry, self-centered and not so nice. But it is amazing to see, how with just a little bit of love and support, transformation is possible and how, not only does their character and attitude change, many of them become reconciled with their families because of it. You can see the peace and joy in their lives instead of the mistrust and hate.
Another favorite experience of mine is putting together Gift of Light Christmas bags for the male inmates every year. We literally fill 8,400 bags for four different men’s prison units and hand them out to them one-by-one the weekend before Christmas. Each bag contains toiletries, candy and 2 pieces of fresh fruit – which they never get in the prison. Teens at our churches spend the entire year decorating these bags and some of the men keep those bags over the years and take them home with them because they mean so much to them.We get letters for months afterward from these men thanking us. It is the little things that can make a big difference in their lives.
Anything exciting to share about your future volunteer efforts or the future of the organization you’re working with?
Yes. The organization I work with has been working with the Southwest Theological Seminary to start a program in the maximum security prisons to help inmates who are interested in getting a seminary degree. After graduation, they are then moved into other units to serve as ministers along with the Chaplains and Biblical leaders to other inmates. We have already done this as a test program with a maximum security men’s prison and just had a graduation for 39 inmates in June. It was great because they were allowed to have their family and friends attend the graduation. Those 39 have now been placed in other units and the impact is already being seen. Because of this, the new program has been fully supported by the Governor of Texas and we are so excited that we are going to soon have a maximum security women’s prison included as part of the program. I can’t wait to see all of the changed lives as a result.
As a NetSuite employee, you receive 16 hours per year to volunteer under NetSuite’s Volunteer Time Off (VTO) Policy. If you volunteer regularly with an organization and would like to be featured on the NetSuite.org blog, email Teryll Hopper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about NetSuite.org’s SuiteImpact Program here.