Help is on the way for parents, caregivers, and educators through Heart to Heart Families

Heart to Heart Newsletter, August 2020

For over thirty years Heart to Heart and its parent organization, Comienzos, has brought life-changing education to incarcerated people. A new program, Heart to Heart Families, is emerging as an extension of this work. Through this program Heart to Heart trainers, coaches, and volunteers will help parents and caregivers care for themselves as they care for their children. The primary focus will be supporting families impacted by incarceration and other adverse childhood experiences. (Click to learn more about ACEs from the CDC). The vision for the program emerged out of conversations with Heart to Heart learner, Chris Hartstein. She is the author of the children’s book, An Inside Story, and creator of its accompanying wool doll. From that, it has grown into a six-week parenting class where the book and doll will be referenced.

Hartstein tells us the goal of the program is to extend the teaching of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication to families. (Click to learn about the Center for Nonviolent Communication). “The intention being that the people in prison that Heart to Heart has reached with their nonviolent education would be supported by having their families learning the same concepts” says Hartstein.

Nonviolent Communication is key to what Heart to Heart teaches in and out of prisons. Heart to Heart Families will start that conversation at home. Heart to Heart hopes to reach a diversity of families because raising children who know they matter is important to all of us. Hartstein can envision working with families who currently have a family member who is incarcerated as well as when this member returns home. The goal is to have a continuation of learning during and after incarceration.

The first six-week parenting class will be held over Zoom. "The book and other materials will be shared so that families can have visual references in the home" says Hartstein. Many adults and children learn concepts with graphics so having the materials in person will make the concepts of Nonviolent Communication easier to grasp.

Hartstein is excited to positively impact children’s lives by spreading the skills of Nonviolent Communication. She asks, “If the kids are learning this stuff, how do we support them in continuing to grow their empathy skills?” She answers with, “Well schools! Let’s share this information not just with parents, but with teachers and counselors.” The physical doll will be engaging for a teacher to hold up and talk with young children about their emotions and needs.

Hartstein tells us she’s been wanting to bring Heart to Heart Families to life for the past three years. She invites anyone who would like to reach young children, parents, or educators with the beauty of Nonviolent Communication to contact her to share their excitement, skills, and connections.

If you’d like to learn more or get involved with Heart to Heart Families, please email for more information.

Heart to Heart is currently, prepping, planning, and looking for philanthropic partners for this project.

Chris Hartstein (Left), with Heart to Heart leader Deborah Balogh (Right)

Your Support Makes a Difference

Thank you to those who have contributed to the 2020 Fund for Heart to Heart.

We have raised over $5,000 to support our vital work. Thank you! If you have not donated yet, click here!


Remembering Dave Petrelius

Heart to Heart ally and filmmaker, Dave Petrelius, died on July 1 at the age of 72 following his fight with cancer. We remember Dave fondly for his warmth and commitment to our work. Dave built on a 29-year career in NFL films by doing philanthropic filmmaking for our organization. Click here to watch my favorite video that he filmed, edited, and produced. Dave was born in Sweden and grew up in Germantown, Philadelphia. As an adult, he and his family settled in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Dave is missed by his wife Theresa, his family, friends, colleagues, and all of us at Heart to Heart. His dedication to social justice led him to become our ally, contributor, and friend.

Thank you, Dave, for your life of service and friendship.

Remembering Sharon Wilson

Heart to Heart learner and contributor Sharon Wilson died on July 10 at the age of 59, following twenty years of living with Multiple Sclerosis. We remember Sharon for her perseverance and generosity.

Sharon was born and raised in western Pennsylvania and settled in the Philadelphia area where she worked in banking for decades. She leaves behind her parents, siblings, many family members, and her long-time partner and caregiver Jeff Riddle. Sharon and Jeff were learners and supporters of Heart to Heart for years. Neither of them let illness keep them from striving to live their best life. We send out gratitude for Sharon’s life of giving and prayers of support for Jeff and all who survive her loss.

- Steve Tumolo

Volunteer and Internship Opportunities Starting

September 2020

Heart to Heart, an innovative nonprofit organization with projects in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, seeks student interns or volunteers for an opportunity to contribute to our mission of helping people affected by incarceration find pathways to healing.

Qualifications include good written and verbal communication skills, comfort with teamwork and collaboration, ability to listen well, social media experience with reliable internet access, and ability to meet deadlines. This person should have a passion for service and justice, and a desire to gain professional experience while developing communication and leadership abilities.

Heart to Heart offers you

  • an opportunity to develop valuable skills while making an immediate impact on people affected by incarceration in communities throughout the Northeastern United States;

  • an opportunity to grow in awareness of issues related to violence, trauma, and mass incarceration while developing communication, leadership, fundraising, and project management skills;