In rare silence, all the men in the dayroom turned their heads to what was happening in the center of the unit:

“Can I get everyone’s attention for a moment?” An inmate and a staff member moved to the front of the officer station. “I know we all understand how hard the community has been hit by Covid, and the unique challenges for all people to find a way to survive and get by. One of the greatest places that has been impacted is our local food banks. Not just by the increasing demand for food by people who are struggling, but by the diminishing amount of food that has been donated.”

“We have a chance to rally behind our community and be part of the solution. We’re here to collect food for Coastal Harvest Food Bank. All the food gathered is going to women, children and families that don’t have enough to get by this winter. If you can give anything, even the smallest item will make a difference to someone who would otherwise go hungry.”

Within minutes, the men begin lining up with food that they want to donate to the food bank. Many of the men barely getting by themselves, are so moved by compassion and concern for others, that they choose to donate from their own small amount of food. Some of those same people could only afford to bring down a single soup. Their contribution hinged on a sacrifice that food they give would be food they go without that night.

The final week of November was Stafford Creek’s food drive. It was initiated by Prevention by Early Intervention (PEI), an at-risk outreach group that is comprised of prisoners with the goal to use their life experiences to positively impact and help transform the lives of at-risk youth. However, they also recognized an addressable need in the community during this covid crisis. Under the guidance of Violence Prevention and its associated sponsors, PEI organized and facilitated an institution-wide Food Drive for Coastal Harvest Food Bank. During the Food Drive, both staff and offenders came together as a community to foster a positive impact in the lives of the less fortunate.

A monumental challenge but not one that was unsuccessful. Through the process of raising food for needy families within the community, PEI and the inmates of Stafford Creek raised over 4000 items!

It was no ordinary day, because the genuine desire for compassion in people put aside their roles as prisoners and staff and just saw a community that needed their help.

The following was a letter written to Coastal Harvest Food Bank explaining the donation and why it was important to the inmates at Stafford Creek:

We don’t have much but we gave what we could. Many of us have suffered poverty and struggled through hard times. We haven’t always made the right choices but many of us are trying to change our lives. We would like to live in a way that rebuilds and restores the harms of the past.

We recognize what Coastal Harvest has been doing for the struggling families that are impacted most during this covid crisis. You are making a difference. You have made a difference to us as well. Giving to you has taught us about empathy and compassion for others; the importance of giving to someone who has much less than us.

Even though we are in prison we recognize the tragedy of people going without during this winter time. At some of the lowest points in our lives, many of us knew what it was like to go hungry or feel like nobody cared.

We recognize the significant impact that the virus has had on communities. Please accept this gift from the Stafford Creek community. We hope this food goes to the people that need it most. Things have been hard this year, but the only way we are going to make it through this crisis is by doing it together.