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Rehabilitation Programs Division

Volunteer Services Program

2012 Governor’s Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Awards

Amarillo Woman Receives Governor's 2012 Criminal Justice Volunteer Award

Photo of Award Winner(s)

(Austin) - Vernell Houska of Amarillo was presented the Governor's 2012 Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award today in recognition of her dedication to helping offenders incarcerated within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The award was presented by Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Oliver Bell, and TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston today during a ceremony held in Austin. Houska is one of 13 individuals and 6 organizations from across the state recognized for their efforts to help offenders and those who are on parole or probation.

"Each of this year's award recipients personify a selfless dedication to helping offenders succeed both while incarcerated, and once they're released," said Livingston.

Houska was the recipient of the "TDCJ Employee Volunteer" Award.

Ms. Vernell Houska is an individual who encompasses all the attributes that make a great volunteer. She is employed and volunteers at the Neal Unit where she also volunteers. Known by all for going the extra mile, she always ensures things are completed with excellence. Her efforts not only benefit the offender population, but also staff members who are influenced and touched by her positive and inspirational works.

Vernell is known to send birthday cards and sympathy cards to her fellow employees in order to lift their spirits. On her days off she volunteers for the church services on the facility by assisting in prayer, setup and support of the services. She works closely with other volunteers to plan and prepare for special events being held at the facility so that all goes well. Vernell is cheerful; an inspiration to the offender population as well as the staff assigned to the facility

When Vernell is not volunteering her time in a correctional facility, she enjoys reading, traveling, and playing Sudoku.

Vernell is one of thousands of concerned volunteers, who like her; donate many hours of their personal time every year with the goal of changing the lives of convicted offenders, and aiding and comforting their victims. Annually, approximately 18,000 volunteers make 163,000 visits to criminal justice facilities and work with offenders who are on supervision, donating over 526,000 hours of service.

Note to media: For more information, contact Jason Clark, TDCJ Public Information Officer, at 936-437-6052 or by e-mail at