MANATEE -- Life after prison can seem bleak and hopeless for many as they try to start over after the loss of time while incarcerated and the life that led them there.
Once a week they can turn on the radio and there is a show reaching out to them providing hope, spiritual guidance and information to help rebuild lives.
Wendy Vasquez takes to the airways with the weekly Spanish Christian News Program on 1490AM Radio from 6 to 7 p.m. Fridays speaking to ex-prisoners.
"Through faith, we are trying to reach out to ex-prisoners," Vasquez said. "Many churches don't want to open their doors, but they don't realize they may be sitting next to them at McDonald's. They are going to be your neighbor. They are going to riding the bus next to you."
Listeners write the show with questions and requests. She gets letters from prisoners as well, she said.
"They want me to check into their case because they think they can appeal," Vasquez said. "Others, they are telling me what they really feel, that the things they listen to on the radio help."
The show also tries to reach out to single mothers who are homeless or dealing with domestic violence.
Vasquez began her radio show in 2007 as a news program. After experiencing personal struggles of her own, she decided to return to the airways using faith to help others.
"I know how it feels. I was hopeless," Vasquez said. "I lost everything. God lifted me up."
Vasquez said she promised God that if he helped her, she would live her life differently.
"That's what I am doing in my life," Vasquez said. "I think we have to have faith and believe in God."
The show regularly fea
tures doctors, law enforcement, therapists and other professionals, she said. They discuss available services and legal issues.
Palmetto Police Detective Chris Cavazos was a recent guest.
"I think it's great. I think it does benefit the community that has the opportunity to be listening," Cavazos said. "It is preventative in the way it reaches out in the community."
Her segment focused on safety laws. Education can help individuals from being pulled over unnecessarily for minor issues that could be prevented, she said.
"It is a very good show. She is a very nice person to willing to help out the community and educate them," Cavazos said.
Other important segments have featured lawyers with instructions on how to expunge or seal records, Vasquez said.
Often, the language barrier and immigrations status are conflicts faced by listeners.
"They are afraid because they are illegal here," Vasquez said.
Other times, the show reaches out to families who have been separated by deportation.
"DCF is trying to work with faith organizations to reunify the children," Vasquez said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.