LIMA — There is a passage in the Bible that refers to something meant for evil being used instead for something good, an apt analogy for 2017 Jefferson Award winner Bobbie Nevarez.
After her release from a 10-year prison sentence in 1997 after an embezzlement conviction, Nevarez did not let that experience harden her to the world, but instead, she turned her incarceration into a launching point for serving others through such organizations as Restoration House and Allen County Open Gate.
“I can never do enough to make things right,” Nevarez said. “I reached that point to where I could take my ugly experience and turn it around. There were volunteers who touched my life throughout that ordeal, and I became a volunteer. It was in volunteering that I found out more of who I am and what I’m about, and of course, that came about through my walk with Christ.”
That desire to serve has led Nevarez to helping with two levy campaigns for the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin Counties, helping connect people in need with social service agencies through Open Gate and administering the four homes of Restoration House, including Patriot Place, a home specifically set aside for veterans, helping people get back on their feet.
“Bobbie walks her talk,” nominator Sandy Monfort said. “She works to give a hand up to men, women and veterans in need of housing. Bobbie’s efforts have touched so many people’s lives in the community, whether they are simply in need of a service and/or services for themselves or their family or returning from confinement, looking to have a new start.”
For Nevarez, it all comes down to honoring God and loving people, calling herself part of “God’s squad.”
“Yes, it’s all volunteer work, but the pay day is when some of them do put together the pieces of their life,” she said. “They get a job. Family relationships are restored. I have the privilege of getting to witness that change in people.”