Christian concert planned for Stevenson Unit chapel fundraiser

Seeking the lost. That is the goal of the Stevenson Unit Chapel Development Corporation and the prison ministries who work with it. They are working towards building a chapel for the offenders at the Stevenson Unit.

Leslie Rabke, president of the corporation, started volunteering at the prison with Kolbe Prison Ministries, when he and others learned of the need for a chapel.

“We’ve been doing retreats out at the Stevenson Unit since the end of 2010,” Rabke recalled. “After about the second or third retreat that we had out there, we realized the facilities in the gymnasium out there were not very conducive to religious activities. We started back then thinking it would be nice if we had a chapel building that was dedicated to the religious activities.”

Kolbe is just one of a dozen or more ministries from the area that sponsor volunteers at the prison that help offenders.

Rabke said, “We’ve seen a remarkable amount of good that has come out of it. We’ve had a number of baptisms and a number of confirmations of offenders out there.”

The Stevenson Unit for a long time allowed volunteers to have religious services in a classroom, but because of fire code they can only put 65 guys in there at one time. When the 65 limit hits, anybody that comes in after have to be sent back to their dorm.

“It’s especially disheartening at Easter time, when they really flock to wanna go to church services,” Rabke said.

Since then, they have been using the gym, but bad acoustics combined with the heat have been problematic.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) have probably a dozen different units around the state that have privately funded chapels.

“One thing that TDCJ says is you can’t go in there and do anything until you have all the money in hand,” Rabke said.

In 2014, the corporation received their tax exemption 501c3 non-profit from both the federal and state government.

“Now, we’re in the fundraising stage,” Rabke noted. “At this point, the concert that we’re having is mainly to get enough funding so that we can go employ an architect to do the conceptual drawings. Once we get the drawings we can go to contractors and get an estimate. Once we know how much it’s gonna cost, then we’ll go to philanthropic organizations, hopefully in the state of Texas, but we may have to go outside the state of Texas in order to get the money to fund this building. Right now, we’re estimating that it’s gonna cost between 1.5 and 2 million dollars.”

The Corporation’s initial fund raising effort will involve hosting a Contemporary Christian music concert which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23 at the new 775 seat Cuero ISD Performing Arts Center.

“I have a good friend [Les Richter] in music ministry,” Rabke stated. “We’ve done several of the retreats out there together. He was a part owner of Schroeder Dance Hall. He still had some contacts, and there was a marketing firm that contacted him. He thought it might be a good idea to have a concert to raise some money, and that’ll get the chapel fund going. That’s kinda how we fell upon Jason Crabb and Selah to come for this particular concert.”

Tickets for the upcoming concert can be purchased online at, by logging onto the Corporations website www.chapelfund. org and clicking on the [buy tickets] button, or by logging onto the Cuero ISD Performing Arts Center website Tickets for the general public will go on sale Monday, June 26 and will be available online only.

Primary funding for the concert will be through corporate sponsorships available from the Corporation on their website. Current sponsors include Rob and Sandy Lassmann, Weber Motor Company, Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum, Victoria Communications Companies, Grace Journey Retreat, Watermark Graphics, Sendero Power Line Construction Co., St. Michael’s Festival Fund, Sts. Peter & Paul Knights of Columbus Meyersville, Coaches Outreach, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, First Methodist Men Cuero and Jimmy and Kathy Gips and family. For more information or to sponsor the event, call Rabke at 361-550-5766.

The state of Texas incarcerates in the range of 150,000 individuals. Ninety-seven percent of those will at some point get out. The goal is to educate the prisoners and give them a good faith foundation, so that when they get out they can find honest work and stay out of the TDCJ revolving door, per Rabke.

“If we don’t go in there and give them some skills, give them a good faith foundation, when they get out they fall back into a life of crime,” Rabke said. “We’ve had a number of guys that have been through our program that have gotten out and done real well. On the flip side of that, there are some that get out and in six months or a year, they’re back in. What we’re trying to do is make the streets of the state of Texas safer by getting the guys that are incarcerated now to learn a skill, and when they get out to earn an honest living and be productive citizens.”

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