Today, as millions of people begin celebrating holiday festivities, there is another population of individuals who are spending this special time of year confined behind the walls of a prison. They have no family to share this holiday season with and unlike the millions of people who are sitting down to a delicious feast, they will dine on traditional prison food.
Inmates at the Sampson County Correctional Institute were able to mentally remove themselves from this scenario last week, as they dined on the annual fried chicken and homemade cakes provided to them through the Community Resource Council.
This year, through the CRC and additional volunteers who worked with the council members, the inmates were treated to 237 cakes and 1,000 pieces of fried chicken from Sensation. The cakes, some homemade, others purchased through local retailers, were donated from local churches and organizations.
According to William Goodman, superintendent of the Sampson facility, the annual dinner is one the more than 450 inmates look forward to each year.
“This is an opportunity for them to have something they are unable to get any other time of the year,” Goodman shared. “All 462 of them will show up for this meal. They truly are grateful for the opportunity to enjoy home-cooked food.”
Each year, inmates who are trustees assist and bring the cakes into the administrative offices and sort through them.
Goodman said around 436 inmates were fed as part of last week’s special treat. The cake donations and chicken donation are made possible through area churches and some schools. Some of the cakes, he added, are baked by different groups.
All inmates, Goodman stressed, are treated fairly and given an even amount. With the donations of the cake and chicken, each inmate would get three slices of cake and two pieces of chicken. For the inmates, not only are the homemade cakes a special treat, but the facility doesn’t offer fried foods, so the chicken was going to be something special.
“And they don’t get one type of cake, either,” Chick Gancer, CRC member, said. “They try to get a variety of the different cakes that been provided.”
Gancer, who said he has been taking part in feeding the inmates for more than 20 years, enjoys this time of year and the holiday season because he likes to see the looks on the inmates’ faces when they see all the cakes come in.
“It just brings so much of home to those who don’t have a chance to be with their family,” Gancer said. “I really enjoy the support of the community. This is just the thing to do at Christmas.”
Goodman said the correctional facility relies on the CRC to help support the inmates due to the tight budget and events like this are a great service to the community and provide a sense of home for the inmates. Throughout the year, the CRC raises funds for the projects not funded by the state. One of those projects, Gancer said, was the chapel that was built at the facility.
With Christmastime being a lonely time for the inmates, Gancer said the CRC takes this opportunity to let them know they are being remembered during the holiday season. During last week’s dinner, each inmate also received a pocket-sized Bible, something Gancer hopes will provide inspiration and hope for their futures.
Gancer said a simple show of support by the community each year can help brighten a day or maybe even be the catalyst for a life being changed.
“People do care,” he said, “and that’s what we tell them.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.