A True Volunteer Organization

Dismas House was founded 35 years ago with the intention of providing second chances to people in need. Our mission has been made possible thanks to the generosity of many compassionate citizens who have contributed to our cause — not only financial resources but thousands upon thousands of hours of volunteer time. From our perspective, community volunteers play a crucial role in fulfilling the vision of any nonprofit organization. Unfortunately, there is a long trend of declining volunteerism in just about every community in the nation.

According to a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy report, the number of hours donated each year by volunteers has been declining for decades — plunging from 52 in 2002 to 40 in 2017, and 26 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019. Data from the latest survey put the number of hours Americans devote annually to volunteering at just 25. On the reverse side of that, according to the Nonprofit Quarterly, there has been an explosion in the size and diversity of nonprofit organizations during that same period. In order words, help has been commercialized in America. 

While there are some obvious advantages to large nonprofits, most are not very good at engaging volunteers beyond campaigns to raise money and awareness for their causes.

As a true volunteer organization, the involvement of community members in our work embodies our core value of restorative justice, continuing a tradition that began with the first Dismas House when a group of Vanderbilt University students and Rev. Jack Hickey, O.P, banded together to make a home for some men who were eligible to be released from prison but were being held because they had nowhere to live.


Volunteers preserve social bonds for Chattanoogans who are serving time in prison and mentor them when they return home.


Board and committee members make decisions to guide the organization as it pursues it's mission of second chances.


Charitable donations support a minimal staff to provide individual support and financial assistance to those in need.