How Incarcerated Women Turn a Season of Giving into a Culture of Giving

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I began to reflect on the idea of giving back. This time of year seems to ignite the giving flame in all of us. During this moment of introspection, I realized that I don’t always think to give back as often as I’d like. I wondered why it takes the holiday season to spark that giving spirit in me and what I could do to keep it burning all year long. I decided to explore the concept of giving with the people who are doing it better than I am.

The Importance of Being Present

I don’t know about you, but I’m not as present as I should be. I get distracted easily by competing priorities, work demands, and the monotonous daily grind of life that I very often miss what’s right in front of me, such as opportunities to give back.

Oh, have I mentioned that I reside in the Arizona Department of Corrections at Perryville? This makes my living arrangement less than ideal, but I’ll tell you this: I’m surrounded by peers who always find ways to give, despite these unique circumstances. There’s a certain grace in having the humility to see that there are always others with worse circumstances than you. My fellow sisters in orange find joy and inspiration in lifting up others. That’s powerfully inspiring.

Even though I’m incarcerated, I’m lucky to work for a company that has made caring for people a core value. Because of this, giving is an integral part of our culture. We are, after all, a company born in purpose. Through our second chance business model we give incarcerated women like me a chance to grow, transform and become better than the worst mistake that brought us into prison.

Giving Back from Behind Bars

If you want to be inspired, take a look at how my peers at the Perryville (Arizona), Rockville (Indiana) and Madison (Indiana) Correctional Facilities are giving back (I plan to take part in a number of these in 2020).

Walk for a Cause

Our ladies at Perryville participate in an annual Cancer Walk to raise money for the American Cancer Society, averaging $3,000.00 to $5,000.00 per unit, per year. At Rockville, they have a similar annual walk where all proceeds support Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis – this year they raised over $6,000.00.

Arts and Crafts with a Purpose

There isn’t any shortage of talent when it comes to the artwork our employees create. Here are just a few ways the ladies give back by getting crafty:

  • Handcrafted Holiday cards sent to military troops
  • ‘Welcome’ pieces sent to new clients
  • Gifts for events like conferences and award ceremonies
  • Arts and Crafts to be sold at Phoenix First Fridays to generate proceeds for the Arouet Foundation. Arouet has just began attending First Fridays and in the first two months have raised over $1,500.00. Arouet is perhaps my most favorite charity because they provide women coming out of corrections with the skills and resources they need to successfully reenter society as leaders, caregivers, innovators and business professionals.
Food Drives

In our Perryville location, the ladies support local churches during the holiday season through food drives. The women post signs and go yard to yard to collect non-perishable items purchased through their spendable accounts to be donated.

Our ladies at Rockville take another approach. They tend to a fruit and vegetable garden and donate all the produce to local foodbanks.

Crochet Your Heart Out

Crocheting is a pretty valuable skill when it comes to giving back. Ladies at all three of our correctional facilities crochet year-round for different causes like:

  • Hats and beanies for the homeless and WIC Program.
  • Stuffed animals for police officers to hand out to children they encounter experiencing traumatic events.
  • Baby blankets for local hospitals.

Year-round, the ladies participate in fundraisers for donuts, ice cream and the like, always with the goal of raising money for a variety of causes.

Show Me the Money!

Monetary donations are another way our ladies contribute to causes from the inside. They donate a portion of their monthly earnings or spendable accounts for things like backpacks for foster children and much needed funding for the Lodestar Day Resource Center.

Animals in Need

One of the managers at our Rockville location who has a soft spot for animals donates a dollar of her own money for every lead the ladies on her team generate. She donates that money to local animal shelters.

Giving Back to Peers

Not only do our ladies help the community, they help their less fortunate peers during the holiday season by creating gift bags. All year long, they provide necessary items to women just beginning their prison sentences. It’s the little things that matter so they share whenever they can, but not just material items. They pass on knowledge by hosting peer-to-peer classes and workshops on an array of topics to help women adjust to their new surroundings.

Give and You Shall Receive

Our Rockville ladies host an annual Volunteer Appreciation Day to recognize the hard work their facility volunteers put in throughout the year. They celebrate with door prizes, raffles, crocheted blankets, a choir performance, and by sharing a delicious meal cooked by the culinary arts team. All the proceeds go toward PLUS (Purposeful Living Unit Served), a program to help women incarcerated gain valuable life skills.
After multiple conversations with my fellow Televerdians on the inside, I became overwhelmed by the massive amount of ways they are giving back to society from behind prison walls. Seeing others give so generously reminds me to be more present. To really observe not just see. And to make time for the things that really count. I’m also inspired to try my own version of the 30 Days of Giving Challenge. In the words of Anne Frank, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”

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