LEAVITTSBURG, Ohio (WKBN) – A local prison turned into Santa’s Workshop Thursday morning.
Staff, volunteers and 22 inmates worked side-by-side at the Trumbull Correctional Institution, putting bikes together for local foster children. They’ll be given out this Christmas, along with helmets and tote bags.
We found out events like this help both the children and the inmates.
“That’s why I do it,” one of the prisoners said. “To give some joy to the kids.”
The group assembled 157 bicycles Thursday.
“Each one of these men today wrote a letter,” said Kate Koch, executive director of Bike Lady, Inc. “It was part of their requirement of participating today. They wrote a letter to the child who’s receiving the bike that, in essence, foster care might be really hard and your time might feel really dark, but there is hope.”
Bike Lady, Inc. is the Columbus-based charity that organized the bicycle assembly event. It provides the bikes, helmets and locks for the children.
Over the past 12 years, Bike Lady has raised more than $800,000 and donated 11,000 bikes.
“Ironically, kids that are in foster care and inmates that are in prison actually have a lot in common,” Koch said. “The primary thing that they are both missing is freedom and I think that’s the one thing that I personally love about doing a prison build.”
One inmate said this brings back memories of his family and the holidays.
“I remember when I was a kid — and grateful that I came from a two-parent home — and for Christmas, there was a brand new bike sitting down there for myself, and any other present I might have got, I didn’t pay no attention. I ran to the bike.”
It’s a simple gift that makes a big impact, not only on the children but on the inmates as well.
“For these guys, they are giving something back to the community in which they took something,” Koch said. “While the bike may not be the same value of what they took away, it’s still the same emotional process that they have made a choice to show up here this morning and give something back, and I think there’s power in that.”
The bikes will be delivered next week to foster groups in Lake, Geauga, Portage and Trumbull counties.