Giving Hope and a Helping Hand
Featured – Paulette Pfeiffer (TinkerBell)
Article by Deborah J Scarpa
President, DJS 3S0P
Silent Victims Of Crime Volunteer
Barely reaching 5 feet, Paulette Pfeiffer can command a room, whether in front of a University Board of Directors or warmly greeting incarcerated parents housed in correctional institutions around the country. Known as “TinkerBell”, for her unique way of sprinkling her very own magical fairy dust on the scorched lives of children of incarcerated parents, making them believe that they can fly… “If they think positive thoughts about their future.” (Walt Disney, 1953)
More than a mythical character, Paulette acts as a nurturing guide to the children, guardians, and imprisoned parents when they find themselves unable to coordinate the most basic wish of all, which is to embrace their child and ask for forgiveness, knowing that their crime has affected more than the most obvious of victims.
Paulette has worked in the non-profit sector for over 30 years, yet she has the energy as if this were her first, idealistic “Cause Celebre.” But on speaking with her, one finds a seasoned, dedicated founder of, not one, but many, organizations that mitigates the profound impact that crime has on our next generation. This tenure of the past three decades confirms Paulette as a humanist, activist, and advocate for the plight of so many who live in poverty, but, also, focuses her energy, predominately, on children’s issues.
Paulette Pfeiffer was born in Poland. Shortly thereafter, her parents fled to Russia because of the Nazi occupation during World War II. Her family emigrated in 1948, from Europe to South America.
Adversity and diversity cultivated Paulette into a person of tolerance and with a great appreciation for the preservation of family, a constant theme throughout her life.
While in Brazil, the quota for Jews immigrating to the U.S. opened and her family finally made it to America, settling in Brooklyn, New York. Paulette is fluent in three languages – Portuguese, Spanish, and English. As a freelance interpreter, Paulette landed a prestigious contract with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York. With the intense pressure to meticulously interpret for international trials, Paulette became cognizant of the inadequacies defendants generally received when given instruction in foreign languages. Without a full understanding of their criminal proceedings, this placed both sides in situations with potentially devastating consequences. Not only did she see the grave injustice this posed to these defendants, it also placed great liability on the U.S. Government when trying complicated, international cases. As a result of her keen observation, Paulette was instrumental in promoting The Court Interpreters Act of 1978. Her name is on the bill passed by Congress, resulting in national awareness and a remedy for this previously unexposed, paramount, legal issue. Later that year, she was recognized as one of our “Outstanding Young Women in America.”
Utilizing her language skills, Ms. Pfeiffer became a leader in international business resourcing and assisted companies with establishing and managing their offices in more than 48 countries. Settling in Chicago in 1982, her philanthropic calling motivated her to volunteer for the Board of Trustees of The Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation. Little did she know, that she would marry the organization’s founder and find herself in a more permanent position. Paulette and her husband, together with a team of dedicated volunteers, grew this organization, which currently serves 270,000 meals per month and raising more than $5M to advance the reach of this program.
In 2002, she and her husband established their first 501(c)(3), non-profit organization, specifically focused on children with incarcerated parents, called “We Stand For Kids” and also becoming a Council Member for the Salvation Army’s Boys and Girls Club.
In 2005, after a move to South Carolina, they expanded their Chicago based program nationally, under the umbrella name of “Silent Victims of Crime”. Finding herself reaching out to other organizations focused on the same children’s issues, she began to join her efforts with Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Arkansas, to co-found The National Association for Children of Incarcerated Parents, now known as NACIP.
In South Carolina, she and her husband developed a summer camp facility to begin a Teen Leadership Program that was established to motivate teens toward pursuing positive, community volunteerism and instilling a sense of community in children who were always considered on the fringe of society. These camp services were enhanced by a partnership with Clemson University and their CALL ME MISTER PROGRAM, which sponsors college students and leads them toward teaching and positive mentorship with the younger children who were in Silent Victims of Crime Summer Camps.
Paulette continued to sprinkle her fairy dust on her next move to Miami, where she established another chapter of Silent Victims of Crime and joined forces with other organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters, The Lions Clubs of Colombia, and The Service Network for Children of Inmates and now, together, they service more than 3,000 children in a robust program of great care and coordination to hold Bonding Prison Visitation in over 15 local and regional prisons, with up to 600 children who visit their parents, sometimes, for the very first time. Sadly, some of these children have not seen their parents in over 3 years. For many children of inmates, this can be years of a long term, arduous journey.
Paulette, or TinkerBell, which she prefers to be called, has many case studies of children who have been left behind after a parent is arrested, and after living their young lives in a criminal environment. Good fortune has allowed them the chance to be face-to-face with a team of people who really believe they can “learn to fly” on their own, toward a future of success. Tracking her very first students from South Carolina, Paulette can boast that one-third of her children are in college or decided on higher training in areas like culinary arts, film, and fashion. Telling these kids, that if you can just get to college, you can have a better life and contribute to society, and not be it’s victims any longer. Empowering children through educational enrichment and positive mentoring is the mantra of her organization.
Paulette has seen first hand, that these children are suffering and continue to fall through the cracks of our criminal justice system. She has spent a lifetime of positive thoughts and actions to allow all of her children to, one day, fly on their own. It will take more then fairy dust to service over 2.8M children nationally, so we ask you to give to our children, so that they can have the hope of a better future.
SVC and its founder have been the focus of several documentaries on Children of Inmates, and Paulette has given hundreds of lectures in a variety of languages about her programs. Please call her to speak to your Organization about this large group of special children. For more information contact Paulette Pfeiffer at SVC@SilentVictimsofCrime.org