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When I retired and came to Florida in 2004 I had no idea that I would be volunteering most of my time to an organization that did not exist yet and whose focus would be on helping men and women who had hit rock bottom through addiction or crime. I was glad that I could use my skills as a teacher trainer and combine it with my years of experience as a church board member to forge a curriculum that would build both better citizens and better Christians. In the course of time many would join me in producing a quality program that delivers. To all the FIT facilitators responsible for our 15,000 course graduations and quarter-million contact hours, thank you.
There is no greater calling than to work with individuals who have a desire to grow and mature in the Word of God and then see them become acclimated into society as a productive citizen. Even though Georgia is now home, spreading the FIT message continues with new opportunities and contacts.
Don Carter, Bradenton, FL, pastored Journey Assembly of God, Bradenton, FL until his retirement in 2017. He has served on the Board since 2016 and has supported FIT in numerous ways by making church facilities available for the FIT office, using the church to provide financial support, introducing Dr. Pratt in 2004 to the Living Free curriculum and to Ed White’s prison program.
Samuel Cotto, Wildwood, FL, was born and raised as a pk (Preacher’s kid). Bishop Samuel has been engaged in Christian ministry for the past forty years and describes himself as “a Servant of the 21st century". He comes from a strong ministry heritage where both his adopted father, the late Bishop Emilio Martinez, mother and grandfather are pastors. He also had a strong mentor in the late David Wilkerson. He works with both English- and Spanish-speaking groups.
After "playing church" as a child, he had a personal encounter with the Lord that changed his life forever. Samuel began fulfilling his call to ministry at the young age of 16. He has founded churches and ministries that are still continuing today. Presently he oversees The Kingdom Alliance, a minister's network, and The King’s Embassy, a training center for ministers. became Executive Director of the House of Hope in 2013, a substance-abuse residential ministry and is now President. Samuel's current interests now includes discipling prisoners coming out prison through the Prisoners of Hope transitional house.
Ted Gaines, Fort Myers, FL, is self employed and has been active in the FIT program since 2012. His main focus has been on working with men in the state prisons.
Geneva Presha, Palmetto, FL, is a member of St. Luke Primitive Baptist Church and joined us as a facilitator in 2011.
John Ringleb, Lakeland, FL, is retired from the Polk County School Board where he was an elementary school teacher and a technology specialist for the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System which was located in the district office. He was in the Royal Rangers boys program for 30 years in the capacity of Commander, Senior Commander, Section 10 Commander, as well as the District Coordinator. He was newly elected to the FIT Board in 2017. He has served his local church as anger management group facilitator for 17 years and is teaching the FIT classes at the Dream Center in Lakeland, Florida in addition to prison work.
Beverly Shatterly, Southport, NC, became a facilitator in 2009 and was the Florida Panhandle representative for many years. She moved to North Carolina in 2017 but still corresponds with some of the Florida families she helped with while there. Beverly is developing new contacts in her new state and is a certified FIT trainer. Beverly was introduced to FIT while serving as Director of Prison Ministry at Vision Church. She served in the position for ten years.
My call to ministry was based on Matthew 28:19-20. It is a mandate to preach the gospel and make disciples of all men. As a prison minister, I was actively preaching the gospel but FIT was a platform for my being able to disciple the new converts. The program is simple and yet so comprehensive that it was perfect in helping to keep my commitment to God to make disciples. The facilitated program sets the stage for open and honest interaction with both the client and the Word of God. After seeing the effectiveness of the program, it naturally led to the decision to become a FIT board member.
My desire to see this curriculum expand to all prisons led me to help to promote this wonderful program so others may also see the souls disciplined that had made a commitment to Christ. I knew that I needed to also take the responsibility to see that the program continued and was funded so we could continue to give our materials away to those who could not buy the curriculum. Most do not even realize their need for this training till they have been in the program for some time. What a privilege to be able to serve with such Godly men and women with a common goal!
Joseph Sheehan, Pensacola, FL, is retired from naval service as an avionics officer and from federal civil service as a senior human systems analyst and training designer. Today, he is sole proprietor of an applied learning company. Joe has facilitated FIT courses in the three state correctional facilities in NW Florida, authored Change of Heart and co-authored Practical Parenting with Don Pratt and John Woods. Joe received his Ph.D. from the University of South Alabama.
John Woods, Pace, FL, became a facilitator and Board member in 2014. He is a co-author of the Practical Parenting course. He has contributed articles to the Journal of Research and Advanced Studies and co-authored a book about the 1975 Vietnamese Refugee Reception Center at Eglin Air Force Base. John is a retired Chief Master Sergeant from the United States Air Force. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of West Florida. John has also served in other Christian organizations. John is currently active in prison ministry in Northwest Florida.
During my service in the Air Force, I was active in the military chapel and Christian Military Fellowship (CMF). After retiring from the military, my family and I moved to Pensacola, Florida. I completed my educator’s certification and started teaching at an alternative school for at-risk youth. I viewed teaching as a ministry. In 2010, I started serving in prison ministry. FIT has become a logical extension to my prison ministry. I truly enjoy sharing God’s message of hope and love to those who wish to grow in knowledge and their relationship with Christ. God is Good. All the Time!