By Peter Zehren
With tears in their eyes and applause for a man who made a difference, the folks at Mattie’s Diner in Buffalo, NY watched as his story unfolded on TV. Gerald Balone has made returned to the neighborhood where he was involved in a robbery that left three people dead. He spent 37-and-a-half years in prison. And, his life was changed by New York Theological Seminary’s Sing Sing ministry when he earned the seminary's Master's of Professional Development.
Gerald had just got off the night shift at Alcoholic and Drug Dependency Services where he works with rehabilitation. He also helps with re-entry but believes his most important ministry is with prevention, going into the schools and telling his story to kids.
Balone will readily tell you Buffalo is the second poorest city in the nation. “Most people would move on from here if they could. I’m right where I’m supposed to be, in the same neighborhood I started in helping out.”
Balone is proud of being a 1999 graduate of NYTS’s Sing Sing program. He struggled through his GED in prison, and then continued through getting his degree. Through hunger strikes, protests and plenty of struggles Balone made it. Now, in his words, “I’m probably the happiest person you’ll ever know.”