Fran Bolin, 39: Executive Director at Assisting Families of Inmates 

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Scott Elmquist

When men and women are incarcerated, they aren’t the only ones who suffer. That’s where veteran social worker Fran Bolin Absher steps in.

She helps families of people in prison, sometimes facing life sentences or capital murder, to stay connected with their loved ones through transportation and moral support. It’s not easy, she says, “but I enjoy the experience.”

Bolin’s been with the organization, which began as a church mission project, since 2001. It’s expanded into three part-time workers, three students working for their masters’ degrees in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University and more than 100 volunteers, she says.

The typical family may have a member sentenced for prison terms longer than 24 months for any number of crimes, including drug violations and murder. One of her group’s biggest tasks is helping family members visit inmates and communicate in live conversations over video links.

The group also helps with other kinds of support and advice. The Milk and Cookies program pays special attention to the children of inmates while they’re in school.

Bolin grew up in Midlothian, graduated from Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1998 and earned her graduate degree in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University. She worked with corrections in Henrico and Chesterfield counties and served as a probation officer before moving to her current group.

Her community activities tend to link to her professional life. She’s active with the fledgling group Divine Horsemanship, which teaches at-risk children equestrian skills. She has three children and works with the Huguenot Little League. And her husband, John Absher, serves as a Hanover County firefighter and part-time Henrico deputy sheriff.

Editor's note: This profile reflects corrections from the print version, noting that the video visitation is a live hookup, not video messages. Also, the number of volunteers has been updated and the Milk and Cookies program isn't a child care program, but a program supporting children in school.

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