Prison inmates make baskets for Wise Choices

By Jake Harris | Published Saturday, August 30, 2014

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Every Friday from 1 to 5 p.m., some of the Bridgeport Women’s Pre-Parole Facility inmates get together to knit, crochet and sew – but not for themselves.

Crocheting for the Community

CROCHETING FOR THE COMMUNITY – Bridgeport Women’s Pre-Parole Facility inmate Madison Haney works on an item to be included in a baby bassinet Friday. Haney is one of several inmates involved in the Moses Basket program at the facility, which donates handmade supplies to pregnant women in need. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

They’re making blankets, sheets and other items for the facility’s Moses Basket program, an all-volunteer-led effort to supply Wise Choices with supplies to give to pregnant women in need.

It’s not just Wise Choices that benefits, however. The inmates enjoy it, too.

“I look forward to it every week – it’s like a mini-vacation,” inmate Angela Fabian said. “I learn how to crochet, and there’s music playing in the background. It’s nice.”

Other inmates said they enjoyed the simple act of charity making the baskets represents.

“I like getting out of my dorm and making the quilts so I can give back to the community,” inmate Lydia Kinchen said.

Kinchen began attending the quilting sessions on Fridays back in April, when the program started. She didn’t know how to sew when she began, but says the program gave her a new skill.

Those new skills were taught by volunteers and a handful of inmates who already knew how to sew, volunteer Pam Randall said. Since the program is still taking place in a prison, Randall said supplies were limited.

“Each girl is issued 10 pins and one needle – and we guard those with our lives,” Randall said. “There was a lot of crawling around on the ground looking for pins and needles.”

The program began after MTC Bridgeport Warden David McComis visited an MTC-owned facility in Gadsden, Fla., that had a similar program in place. McComis said he thought it would be a good idea to try at the women’s facility in Bridgeport, and when he got back, he already had volunteers willing to teach the inmates how to sew. That was in April.

Those months of work culminated Friday when the Moses Basket group presented the Wise Choices Pregnancy Center with two baskets full of essentials for babies – mattresses, sheets, blankets, washcloths, quilts, bibs and pillows.

The baskets would be used for the Wise Choice’s resource center, where pregnant women can earn points to purchase items by learning about pregnancy, said Janis Alling, Wise Choices director of community outreach.

“You may never see the baby you’ve just helped, but the parents know that you all set aside your time for them,” Alling told the inmates Friday.

MTC chaplain Phil Yoder said that while some of the women in the Moses Basket program are involved in the faith-based dorm that the facility offers, most are just there for the outreach.

“It’s gotten to the point where we have a waiting list for the program,” he said. “To see them use their time well, and take pride in it – that’s the most rewarding thing for me.”

Randall said the program is still in need of volunteers who know how to knit, sew, crochet or do needlework. To get involved, call the Bridgeport Correctional Facility at 940-683-3010.

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