A new program offered at the Kyle Correction Center allows offenders who are preparing to return to civilian life the chance to give back to their community.
Stitch-a-Smile, a program that was instituted earlier this year, teaches offenders how to crochet stuffed animals, which are then donated to the community.
“This is something I’ve wanted to start for a while now,” said Deanna Branham, warden of the Kyle Correctional Center. “I am a firm believer in giving one’s self as a way of healing one’s self. This program is the perfect blend of that.”
The goal of the program is providing toys to children in need. The toys are also donated to local women’s shelters, children’s hospitals, and possibly even foster children.
Many of the offenders residing in the correctional center do not have the custody level required to be able to go out and perform community service. The program allows them to give back to their community in an alternative way.
Sixty-nine offenders currently participate in the program, which is open to anyone in the correctional facility.
“The offenders at our facility are six months from release back into the community,” said Branham. “It is crucial that they understand the importance of paying it forward and giving back to the community.”
Donations from Stitch-a-Smile will go to Blue and Brown Santa programs put on by the local police and sheriff’s departments.
“(Kyle Police Chief) Jeff Barnett gave the green light for his officers to keep some of the stuffed animals in patrol cars for children on emergency calls,” Branham said.
“Our customer, Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) – Private Facilities Division, approved the program a month or so ago,” Branham said. “We have about four volunteers and many employees that have donated their time to come in and teach the offenders how to do the basic crochet stitches and how to read a pattern.”
Stitch-a-Smile primarily runs off of donations from the community.
The Hays Hill Baptist Church accepts yarn donations of any color on behalf of the program.
“We were able to obtain enough supplies to get the guys started, but we could always use donations of yarn,” Branham said. “Once they get the hang of it, I believe they will start going through lots of yarn.”