Prisoners Sew Masks for Health Care Workers
Mabel Bassett Correctional Center (MBCC) is a maximum-security state prison for women in McLoud, Oklahoma. Due to COVID-19 safety measures, access to family and their usual in-prison programming is unavailable. Their need for uplifting activities is greater than ever.
Productivity may look different during a pandemic, but inside MBCC, incarcerated women are making the best of it. The prisoners have produced thousands of handcrafted medical masks to send out to the community. The project is a coordinated effort by MBCC's in-prison sewing club, local nonprofits, and generous donors.
"These ladies are great at what they do," MBCC Capt. Clint Bennett told KFOR.com. "They work well as a team."
To all involved, the project is a much-needed mission.
After mere days and a few phone calls, the collective effort began. The talented ladies of the Warriors Quilting Club at MBCC—several of whom are Prison Fellowship Academy participants—paused their usual sewing projects to produce face masks for local hospitals. Hobby Lobby, which helped fund the opening of Oklahoma's first Academy sites, donated truckloads of fabric and 10 sewing machines.
Every year, Flourish awards grants to groups to continue their work in a particular focus area. The 2020 category is over-incarceration in Oklahoma. But this year's celebration event, which would have included Prison Fellowship®, was canceled in March due to COVID-19.
"We have a network of amazing, innovative people who love Jesus and wanted to come together and do something," says Emily. "Everyone jumped in where they were needed. Nobody wanted the credit. It was all about getting masks to people who need them."
Tammy, Emily, correctional staff, and others partnered to deliver completed masks weekly from prison gates to hospital parking lots. In the first two days of the project, the ladies of MBCC produced and donated more than 1,000 masks. Since then, many hospitals in the surrounding area also have called to request masks.
Hospital staffs know they are receiving masks made by prisoners, Tammy says. "It absolutely gives the [incarcerated women] a sense of worthiness. I know we all feel this frustration of, 'I don't know how to help, or what to do.' This has met that need for the women ... being seen and known and giving back."
Tammy adds, "It touched everybody's heart to know that the women pray over every mask they make."
PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER
Oklahoma Correctional Industries (OCI), which employs incarcerated people to make garments, textiles, and more, joined the effort to meet the growing need for masks. And as fabric donations kept up with the demand, the project has expanded to give masks to other high-risk populations in the community, from retirement communities to homeless shelters. The goal is to also produce enough masks for all the women and staff at MBCC.
The deputy warden at MBCC has received photos from members of the community wearing masks from MBCC. He showed them to the ladies of the Warriors Quilting Club and said, "Here are the people you are protecting with your masks."
To date, those involved in the sewing project have donated more than 10,000 handmade masks to the people of Oklahoma City. And the MBCC ladies are still busy sewing.
"It means a lot to me to be able to give back to the community, to make a difference, to show that we are more than just a number," Kelsey, a prisoner, told told KFOR.com. "And that we actually do care about the community and that we can give back."
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