GREENWOOD—Inmates at Leath Correctional Institution for women in Greenwood have more chances to create a little beauty in their corner of the world thanks to efforts of prison ministry volunteers at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
Members of the parish recently collected almost two carloads of fabric, yarn, cotton stuffing and other crafting supplies for special crafts classes at the maximum security prison.
Under supervision, inmates make everything from crocheted blankets and baby hats to quilts, stuffed animals and other items that are often donated to the needy.
The craft supply drive was spearheaded by Ann DiDiego and fellow volunteers Charlotte Cabri, Libby Bartley and Carol Mason. The women visit inmates at Leath each week to pray, read Scripture with them, talk about their lives and offer support.
The volunteers also sometimes bring the Eucharist to the women, and when possible a priest comes along to celebrate Mass and offer the sacrament of reconciliation. They currently meet with about 12 inmates each week. Some of the women are active Catholics, while others are coming back to the faith or are interested in learning about it.
DiDiego has been involved in the ministry at Leath for about three years and had the idea to collect craft supplies after seeing some of the items the women created on a regular basis.“Many of them are so talented and make beautiful items,” she said. “One woman creates wall hangings with Bible verses on them. Others will make bookmarks out of pieces of ribbon they get. They work with whatever they have.”
Cabri said she has seen lovely lap quilts the inmates made out of old Tshirts, sweatshirts and other gently used items.
The volunteers set up a craft display at church so people could see the kind of work the inmates do.
“They were so proud to share their items with us for the display,” Cabri said. “Sometimes these women need to know that somebody thinks what they do is worthwhile.”
DiDiego was overjoyed with the success of the craft drive, but wasn’t surprised because the parish has been supportive of the prison ministry program over the years. The women also have collected toiletries and other supplies for inmates, and sometimes supply clothes for women who are being released.
Crafts and other activities help the incarcerated women learn a sense of self-worth and meaning while serving their time, she said.
“I love those girls that we work with,” DiDiego said. “They’re just beautiful, beautiful women that sometimes have gotten off track.”
Cabri said prison ministry is an important chance for the volunteers to teach the inmates about God’s love and also learn something in the process.
“They’re making a difference in our lives,” she said. “It’s humbling for us to see the struggles they’ve gone through, and the efforts they have to put forth each day. We realize we’re all in this process together, and we help each other.”