Eleven who Care Winner: Vern Janssen

9:31 AM, Jan 25, 2012   |    comments
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CARVER COUNTY, Minn. -- Some people have a calling in life, Vern Janssen's landed him in jail. He's never been behind bars but he is the man behind turning hundreds of lives around.

"There's a right and a wrong and we want to do the right all the way through," Janssen says to a group of prisoners during a Bible study at the Carver County jail.

It's where you will find the 84-year-old volunteer chaplain six days a week.

"You gotta show them that you love them. You gotta show them that you are committed and you got to show them  that you're actually concerned in their problems," says Vern Janssen.

Vern is very committed. He teaches Bible study several times a day and is often around just to talk if an inmate feels the need. Over the years he's turned many lives around.

"They have a story unfolding in their lives and Vern is the person that doesn't care about any of that. He cares about their soul, he cares about their spirit, he cares about sending them out the door with a mission in their heard to do better," says Carver County Sheriff Bud Olson.

Vern works with both men and women, he uses The Bible or The Quran, he even speaks Spanish. He'll do whatever it takes to make that connection...and it's working.

"If I had never found those Bible studies I would have come out and spent all those months in jail and got out to be the same person I was before I came in," says former inmate Edwin Ratemo.

Ratemo is one of the many former inmates that has come back to thank Vern for turning his life around. Vern, however, still insists he's the one that gets the most out of his volunteer work.

"Every time I leave I'm so enthused that I'm walking on air," says Janssen.

Vern has been volunteering in jails since 1970. The last 15 years have been with Carver County where he started a greeting card program to help inmates reconnect with their family members. Sheriff Olson says Vern is always there for the staff when they need him too.

"He's a unique human being," says Olson. "A one-of-a-kind guy and I think he's one of those angels that walks on earth, I really do."


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