It’s a typical crocheting class in an atypical place.
As of April, the Volusia County Correctional Facility in Daytona Beach enlisted the help of volunteer Carol Dreyer to teach inmates once a week how to crochet. More than just passing time, the chain stitches, slip stitches and single stitches are transforming two sets of lives, the inmates who use them to create hats for infants and the Halifax Hospital Neonatal Infant Care Unit babies who will wear them.
Warden Larry Langdon is a huge fan of the program.
“The female inmates that participate in the program enjoy coming, seeing the end results of their labors with donating the hats to our local hospital,” Mr. Langdon said. “So, the program has been a win-win in many directions, with giving the inmates meaningful purpose coming and relieving some stress, because it is stressful being in jail, and the hats going to needy babies at the hospital.
“Director Mark Flowers initially talked about it, wanting to establish some sort of crocheting program,” he said. “I reached out to my wife who knew Carol who volunteered at that point.”
Rosa is taking her third class and will be released in one month. She has already completed one hat. “It feels good; we have a purpose. I think there’s no excuse for us to come back (to jail) now. They have good programs now. It makes us feel good about ourselves. We appreciate the opportunity.”
Christina is also in the class.
“This has helped me a lot just to get my mind back because I have done a lot of drugs,” she said. “It’s helped me get back on my feet. I want to grow old and do this in a rocking chair one day. I go back to the north wing and tell all the girls how encouraging it is, to do something besides being negative. I definitely like to be a positive role model. Hopefully one day be able to pass it on to my kids to do the right thing. I need to get back in my kids’ life, I’ve been gone for a long time.”
Ms. Dreyer, the instructor, said, “I like helping people. If I can help somebody by telling them through my experience, I’m willing to do that. I’ve had a hard life. I’m not ashamed of anything that’s happened in my life. When Warden Langdon asked me, I jumped at it. They’re benefiting the babies at the hospital. I’m very blessed and very honored and just love coming every Wednesday.”
Ms. Dreyer is retired from Florida Health Care as a surgical coordinator for three ophthalmologists. Self-taught to crochet, she finds it enjoyable and relaxing. Safety comes first, so the needles are plastic and materials used are carefully inventoried before and after class and kept locked up in between classes.
Jessica, who also is in the class added, “It helps us on the outside, too. Sometimes when you don’t have much you like when a birthday or holiday comes up and you can’t really do anything you feel bad, but this is something that doesn’t cost very much and we can make something for our families. Like my grandmother, I could make her an oven mitt or something.”
Crocheting isn't their only work, though.
Prior to the class, Jessica spent two hours loading sandbags to help the community as many of the inmates are busy doing, preparing for whatever Hurricane Dorian would bring to Volusia County.