By Bill Enfield
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Photo by CDCR photographer Clarissa Resultan
The wings of the better angels of human nature have found a home with Diane Shepherd, a CDCR case records analyst and 18-year employee.
The founder of Correctional Workers Who Care (CWWC) has a long history of serving the community in a multitude of ways. She is a leader or organizer of more than a dozen charity efforts each year.
Her mother inspired her to serve others in so many ways, she said.
“When I was 15 years old my mother told me I was very selfish. From that day forward, I looked outside of myself.”
A list of her civic projects reads like a list of accomplishments for a dozen people:
Easter at St. John’s Shelter for Women and Children – “We go out with an Easter bunny, serve lunch, provide Easter baskets for all kids, dye eggs, play games, have an Easter Egg Hunt, read books to the little ones and give all moms make-over’s provided by Mary Kay. We have done this for six years.”
Halloween at Sacramento Children’s Receiving Home – “For six years, we went out to the Sacramento Children’s Receiving home. We provided dinner, all kids received goody bags, and we played games. The Corvette Club and Buffalo Soldiers, which are mainly CDCR and various other employees, decorated the trunks of their Corvettes and motorcycles so the kids could trick or treat. For the older kids, some of the CDCR Officers came out and played basketball and dominoes with them.”
Youth and the Law Forum – “In collaboration with the Sacramento County Superior Courts and the 100 Black Men of Sacramento, the forum is held at the county jail. This is where the students get the real deal from a diverse group of law enforcement personnel, including judges, deputy sheriffs, police officers, narcotic/gang detectives, probation officers, Correctional Officers, and correctional staff.
“Some of the topics covered are: don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time, how to interact with officers of the law, how the criminal justice system works, what happens when you go to jail or prison, taking responsibility for your actions to avoid the criminal justice system, and making good choices. Each participant is given breakfast and lunch as well as a tour of the jail. We have been doing this annually for 13 years.”
Folsom State Prison Hooks and Needles Program in which inmates knit various items, including hats, gloves and toys – “We collect and donate skeins of yarn. I have received yarn from all over California as well as other states and even other countries.” Donations come from all over California and other states. She has even received donations from abroad.
“One generous donor who really stands out is a world traveler who happens to be blind. She has donated beautiful wool yarn from her travels to London, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.”
Oak Park & Meadowview Holiday Festival – “CWWC took charge of the festival three years ago. We saw a need in the Meadowview Community and branched off to this area. Each year we have anywhere from 600 to 900 or more people in attendance. We are in our eighth year. Each child receives breakfast, books, toys from Santa, hats, and scarves knitted by the Folsom Prison Hooks and Needles Program.
“The parents also receive breakfast. The families look forward to this event every year and one little boy told me he looks forward to getting a hat and scarf each year. I have also been told that for some disadvantaged children these are the only gifts they will receive.”
Soul Stroll for Health – “This event we put on is very dear to my heart. In conjunction with the Sacramento Banana Festival, Correctional Workers Who Care and the Black Child Development Institute will host an annual 5k walk. This event sheds bright lights on the issues we face in our communities and abroad. The walk promotes community wellness, literacy, and brings attention to the issue of infant mortality in the African American community.”
Annual comedy show – “Twice a year for 17 years, I organize and oversee a comedy show. It started out just as a way to raise money for toys. Over the years, it grew and grew. Each show raises enough money to purchase over 600 toys for the Meadowview Holiday Festival. So many people have approached me and said, ‘Thank you.’ I ask, ‘For what?’ and am told, ‘This event meant so much to our CDCR officers and staff because it gave them a way to give back to the community.’ It’s also an opportunity for CDCR employees to relax, de-stress, and enjoy the company of co-workers who may have retired or been off work for medical reasons.”
She also serves as a volunteer for Peer Support, CDCR’s much lauded program that offers counseling and other help for staff and others in crises. She also is an original member of the CDCR Disability Advisory Committee.
Shepherd said her mother’s challenge made her see things in a very different way.
“I was very surprised at the world I was looking at. I saw so many people that needed help but had too much pride to ask. Some just did not know how to access resources,” she said.
“My desire to help people is embedded in my soul. It gives me purpose and drive. My only regret, my mother passed away before she could see the person she helped me to become,” she said
Sacramento County awarded her a Hero of Humans Services Award in 2014. The award stated she is a “dedicated community servant, who is committed to making a difference in the lives of families in Sacramento County.”