Inmates at the Ohio Reformatory for Women pack meals at the facility’s gym Wednesday. Over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, the women packed 200,000 meals to go out to various charities in the area. The idea came from The Outreach Program, a non-profit out of Des Moines, who came to help out.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Will Channell)
Entering the gym at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) earlier this week, you might have seen an unexpected sight.
Inmates, lined up at tables, measuring out food and put it in small, well-organized packs. It isn’t a somber, oppressive scene though; it’s joyful. Music was playing, and occasionally an inmate might break the line of smiling women to dance for a few seconds before returning to work.
Speaking to officials, it’s all because they’re working for something they believe in. In two days, inmates at ORW packed 200,000 meals for area charities to hand out. The program is the result of The Outreach Program, a nonprofit based out of Des Moines devoted to curbing hunger for those less fortunate than most.
On Thursday, trucks pulled up to the ORW’s warehouse to take the meals to the organizations involved.
According to a list provided by the prison, the lunches went out to 12 charities: Marysville Food Pantry; the Salvation Army of Marion, Crawford and Shelby Counties; Agape Food Pantry; the Mid Ohio Foodbank; New Day Ministries; Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark; Champaign and Logan Counties; the Needy Basket of Southern Miami County; First Place Food Pantry in Miami County and All Star Food Pantry in Franklin County.
Rick McNary, vice president of private and public partnerships for the The Outreach Program, said the organization specializes in “engaging volunteers” to carry out their mission. He said it’s unusual for the organization to work with prisons. The last time Outreach worked with prisons was at the Pickaway Prison earlier this year. Both events have been facilitated through Governor Kasich’s office.
He said working with the women at ORW has been a great experience. According to him, the two days of packing lunches at ORW have been the best two days of his career working at the nonprofit.
“It’s such a powerful way for the prison inmates to give back,” he said.
He said the chance for the inmates to do something like this is “transformational.” He said inmates have remarked to him that it gives them a chance to give back to the community they had taken from before.
Inmate Charity Henson agreed. She said packing meals for people who might not eat otherwise has been “exhilarating.” She said she’s grateful to be able to do something as compassionate as feeding the hungry.
Inmate Angela Sims mirrored that statement.
“People are going to eat because of what we did today,” Sims said.
ORW Warden Roxanne Burkes said she was excited to take on the program when the prison was approached about it. The prison had never done anything like what Outreach was proposing.
“I always think it’s important to do things that are different,” she said.
Burke joked that when she heard the Pickaway Prison had packed 50,000 meals, she took that as a challenge. She said she generally believes the women inmates can do more than their male counterparts.
“(I said) okay, but we need to do more than 50,000,” she said.
Burkes said the women are passionate about the program because of a common line many of them share: they’re mothers. Many of them may have experienced the same ordeal their meals will help fix. The two days these inmates have spent putting this food together, she said, has proven a “fantastic” way for those women to give back.
“It’s been an amazing program,” she said.
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