PenPal Ministry Gives Encouragement to Juvenile Girls

A group of women is giving hope to young girls incarcerated by the juvenile court system and sent to the Alabama Department of Youth Services for help.

“I just talk to them about life and what I would tell my own children,” penpal Debbie Oden said.

Oden is just one of dozens of women across the state who are involved with New Start Ministry’s PenPal ministry. They write letters and emails to the incarcerated young girls.

It began in 2004.
Now 16 years later, New Start Ministry’s penpals have reached hundreds of girls in the DYS.

“We have connected over 1800 girls since we’ve been doing this during that time. And it’s been a wonderful joy just to be a blessing to the girls,” Walt Valentine said.

Valentine is the founder of the non-profit New Start Ministries. He says prior to the founding, there wasn’t a one-on-one connection available for female juveniles.

“The penpals become a new friend and when the penpals are sharing with them, really the same thing we’re all sharing- to be positive, to do right, to make right choices,” Valentine said.

As word of the ministry spread, women through out Alabama signed up to join.
They write one letter or email every seven to ten days, and pray daily for the girl they’re connected with.
Sometimes, the girls write back.

“Many times when you’re incarcerated, the’yre kind of abandoned. They don’t hear from the family like they need to. I’ve had them say “you’re the only letter I get in here,'” penpal Vicki Stanford said.

The ministry has received countless testimonies thanking their penpal role models for the encouragement..
Sometimes, that’s the only evidence the women receive that their letters are making a difference.

“It’s not my role to be judgmental and I think that really goes so far and to make them feel some worth,” Cel Bailey said.

To be a penpal, you must be twenty one years old or older and go through a back ground check.

If you’re interested, you’re encouraged to call Walt Valentine at 205-743-8722 or email him at

Categories: Montgomery Metro, News