The StoneCatchers Society provides education resources, hope for the incarcerated

SHELBY COUNTY — By definition, a stone catcher is “a person who defends the downtrodden, speaks up for those who cannot speak, and seeks fellowship with all.” Since its inception in 2021, The StoneCatchers Society has stayed true to its mission statement of providing  grace, hope, and mercy to those facing misfortune, while supplying hundreds of educational books to incarcerated people in Iowa and Nebraska.
Co-founded by Harlan Community High School classmates and longtime friends Tony J. Kenkel and Brady Greer, the nonprofit organization works to positively impact the lives of those in custody of the criminal justice system.
Greer, who serves on the board for the organization and provides tech support, said, “It started as a way to get involved in advocacy for criminal justice reform. There are many different avenues to take when getting involved with criminal justice reform, and we started with education on some of the issues that are prevalent throughout the prison system.”
Kenkel, the organization’s president, is currently incarcerated at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. “With low educational attainment statistically linked to higher rates of incarceration; our programs undoubtedly have direct impacts on participants and indirectly improve the well-being of our society,” he wrote in 2022.
“Tony is the voice and leader of StoneCatchers,” Greer said.  “He spends hours curating content for the Crusade, drafting letters to send to donors, and most importantly, building positive relationships with the other incarcerated men. Tony’s drive to better himself through additional education and providing hope for the imprisoned enables the organization to do the same for others.”
 Other Shelby County natives affiliated with The StoneCatchers Society include Kenkel’s sister, Jenna Hucka, his father, Steve Kenkel, Cory Miller, Marcus Gross, Ann Langenfeld, and Carole Mohr.  
 Mohr and Langenfeld are new additions to the organization, and Greer said, “Their organization and leadership have helped us take the next step.” Gross provides legal counsel, Steve is the treasurer and Miller is the group’s lead contact with RISE, a program which prepares people in prison for a successful reentry into society through character development, job readiness and entrepreneurship. Greer said Hucka brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in working in the non-profit and fundraising arena, and added, “Jenna is Tony’s voice and vote at the board table.”
 After learning about the inequities of those imprisoned, particularly the lack of educational opportunities, Greer said the group has shifted toward providing tools to enhance knowledge and prepare them for re-entry into society.
 “Recipients of the educational activities have shared through letters of gratitude the direct, positive impact our collective efforts are making,” he said.
 From now until the end of September, The StoneCatchers Society is holding “The Crusade”, an annual interactive fundraising event that fuels the organization’s programs.
 In what many deem “The War Against Reading,” correctional facilities nationwide increasingly limit and censor reading materials allowed to enter their walls, which creates barriers for individuals seeking further education. Through The Crusade,  The StoneCatchers Society provides the opportunity for incarcerated individuals to receive educational books from pre approved vendors through a program called BookiN.
“The Crusade is a win/win for the Deptartment of Corrections and future incarcerated individuals as well, as we encourage the recipients of the educational books to donate them to their prison library when they are finished, which many have done, passing and promoting our mission forward,” Steve Kenkel said.
 To date, The StoneCatchers Society has given a total of 395 educational books to 207 individuals.
 In 2022, the organization decided to further enhance educational opportunities for those incarcerated, and founded The StoneCatchers Scholarship, which provides scholarships to fund vocational and college courses. Last year, two individuals were recipients of scholarships.
 Greer stated the ability to fund these programs relies on the generosity of family, friends and businesses within the community. “Everyone has been very generous and caring,” he said.
“We are positively impacting many lives and better preparing them for the next phase.”
  For more information, visit the website or follow them on Facebook™ to receive updates on The StoneCatchers Society.
    Donations and contributions to help fund their missions are also accepted on their website and via Venmo @stonecatchers



Harlan Newspapers

1114 7th Street
P.O. Box 721
Harlan, IA 51537-0721

(800) 909-6397

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