Chaplain Donald Stine
Donald Stine says that his favorite hobby is “celebrating God’s creation” by hiking and exploring in the country. A long-time prison chaplain, Donald has a keen understanding of the religious beliefs and practices of various faith groups and is a strong advocate for the religious rights of all offenders. He now returns to Buckingham after a brief retirement to serve as Interim Chaplain.
Chaplain Donald Stine has a sharp wit and a wry sense of humor which have served him well over the decades he has worked inside prisons. When asked how long he had been employed by GraceInside, he laughingly replied, “Since we changed our name.” He answered more seriously, “But I started with Chaplain Service in December of 1990 at Natural Bridge Juvenile. I was living down the road from the juvenile facility, and my church was right next door to the facility. They went through a couple of chaplains kind of quickly. I had been filling in for the chaplain so they asked me to become the chaplain. I was there until 1998.”
In December of 1999, Chaplain Stine transferred to Buckingham Correctional Center, a level 3-4 institution. Chaplain Stine began at BCC just as the offenders were coming off a partial three year lockdown. It was his task to reinitiate programs. Chaplain Stine remembers, “I had just moved out of Arnold’s Valley, which was kind of a rough place” so going into Buckingham at such a sensitive time did not make him nervous. “I have never had an uncomfortable minute in the prison because of the offenders.”
“I love it all. I like working with the offenders. I like working with the volunteers. I like working with all the groups.” Sometimes the volunteers need advocates inside the prison, a person who understands their value and worth. At BCC, Chaplain Stine is this person. His gratitude for their service underscores each interaction with the volunteers and the staff. “The offenders and volunteers keep me coming back. We have a lot of really dedicated volunteers.”
Chaplain Stine knows that he makes a difference and appreciates the opportunity to “tell people who are in prison about God and his love for them.” He goes on, “There’s a couple hundred stories about why I do what I do. One guy in particular, I knew his family when I lived in Clifton Forge 40 years ago – but not him. He wound up in prison, got out, went to NY, came back and is in prison, again. He told me the other day that I had made more of a difference in his life than anything else because I have stood by him when he kept screwing up. Those are his words. I try to do my job – and do what I can do.”
Chaplain Stine has a very busy life on the outside, too. At the prison 2-3 days a week, Chaplain Stine makes time to preach in Arnold Valley two days a week. When not doing that, we have goats and horses. My daughter has chickens and cattle.” Chaplain Stine has three adult children (one professor, one runs a greenhouse and farm and one is a logger) with wife Sherry.