On Oct. 26, Sister Terry Dodge was awarded the Minerva Award along with Oprah Winfrey, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, Oral Lee Brown and Carolyn Blashek.
Created by First Lady Maria Shriver in 2004, the Minerva Awards have become the country's most prestigious awards given to women "who serve on the front-lines of humanity," celebrating extraordinary legacies of service and contributions to California, the nation and the world.
Minerva is an ancient, Roman goddess, who stands for courage, wisdom and strength. Her image graces the California State Seal.
The five recipients were honored in ceremony during the Grand Finale of the Women's Conference, which took place in Long Beach, Calif., among thousands of attendees.
Sister Terry Dodge is a Catholic nun with the Order of St. Louis. She is also the daughter of Ervin and Patricia Dodge, Poland, and sister to Jan Lyon-Bragg and Bonnie Sonnefield, Poland, and Kate Hoag, Bowling Green.
Dodge is the Executive Director of Crossroads, Inc., a six-month residential program for women released from California State prisons. Crossroads provides a supportive, safe home for readjusting to life after prison, at no cost.
Programs address interpersonal and life skills, overcoming substance abuse and finding jobs.
In 2007, Dodge developed Turning Point Staffing Services for formerly incarcerated and at-risk women, to teach employment skills and develop placement with local employers.
In the state of California, 59 percent of all women released from prison return to prison within three years. In contrast, 86 percent of Crossroads graduates are self-sustaining after six years.
Receiving family support, finding employment and having access to external programs and support systems helps paroled women transition from prison to community life.
Crossroads provides housing, education, support and counseling in a homelike environment for incarcerated women. The goal of the organization is to empower women to take control of their lives and to help them step out of the revolving door of prison.
To date, more than 400 women have successfully rebuilt their lives.
"We love the women until they are able to love themselves," Dodge said.
"The work I do is not extraordinary," Dodge said in an interview with Diane Sawyer, current anchor for ABC World News. "If it seems extraordinary, it is because not enough people are doing it."
One focus of Dodge's recent work is supporting women who have served long sentences, whose needs aren't met by other programs.
In 2009, she opened a second residence. In 2006, with women inside, she began The Advocacy Project, to help women serving indeterminate life sentences in receiving parole. Many of those who are found suitable for parole by the Board of Prison Hearing are subsequently denied parole by the governor. The projects grassroots letter writing campaigns generate support for each woman found suitable, urging the governor to grant parole. In building Crossroads advocacy work, Dodge is currently a fellow of the Women's Policy Institute, where she is working to change policy regarding the shackling of pregnant women.