Chaplain John Spurgeon of the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center and Correctional Work Center earned the Volunteer of the Year award this week from the American Jail Association.
Spurgeon received the award during the annual conference this week. He also serves as prison ministry pastor at New Vision Baptist Church.
Deputy Chief Bernard Salandy, who heads the Adult Detention Center, nominated Spurgeon for the national award because of the chaplain’s commitment to improving the lives of adult inmates.
“As a volunteer chaplain, Pastor Spurgeon energetically teaches Bible studies, mentors inmates and is always eager to talk and pray with inmates,” Salandy wrote in the nomination. “He is always available for death notices.
“Pastor Spurgeon understands the hardship inmates’ families suffer and reaches out to them,” he said. “He leads New Vision’s Prison Ministry of Soldiers with a Task (SWAT) Team who annually provide Christmas presents for about 800 children of inmates.”
He and his SWAT Team sponsor a voluntary, annual Spring for Life event for inmates and families with the message the inmates can change their lives, the deputy chief said. They host a spiritual Redeemed for Life Celebration where they conduct baptisms for inmates who choose to participate.
County Mayor Ernest G. Burgess, who supervises the Correctional Work Center, endorsed the nomination of Spurgeon. He and his volunteers enrich the lives of inmates and their families.
“I have served as a guest speaker at some of the events and appreciate first-hand his drive to improve the health and well-being of the inmates at both facilities,” Burgess said. “Pastor Spurgeon and his volunteers have made a positive impact on the lives of the inmates and their families.”
Lt. Richard Grissom, who serves as detention center program director, said Spurgeon’s service impacts inmates.
“In his leadership role with the jail ministry, he has been a strong voice for change,” Grissom said. “His influential leadership as a volunteer helps advance the Jail Ministry’s mission and priorities in specific ways. Volunteerism and leadership are based on a vision formed by faith and a commitment to ‘giving back’ to his community. He stays intentionally connected to his volunteer mission.”
In his acceptance, Spurgeon thanked his family, Salandy whom he described as a “big brother to me,” New Vision Pastor Brady Cooper and the Jail Ministry volunteers.
There is no better joy than finding one individual to bring back to the community, Spurgeon said. He hopes the award will inspire others to “bring hope to the hopeless, loved to the unloved” and give inmates second chances.
“I’m honored and humbled to receive this award,” Spurgeon said.