Impact Georgia Magazine August - Page 13

GCI creates 500 backpacks for children in need

IMPACT GEORGIA MAGAZINE AUGUST 2019

12 13

In February, Georgia Correctional Industries (GCI) decided to follow the lead of Utah Correctional Industries (UCI); their effort to provide much needed backpacks for school-age children in their state was featured in the January NCIA E-brief. What started out as a small group, with great ideas, turned into a much larger group with grand ideas and innovative ways to achieve our goal.

With the full support of Georgia Department of Correction (GDC) and through a combined effort involving staff at the Decatur office, with staff and offenders at Montgomery, Hancock and Pulaski plants, we have been able to realize our goal of delivering a total of 500 backpacks to the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) for distribution to children in Georgia’s foster care. Working with other community partners DFCS filled each backpack with school supplies and distributed them at several of their back-to-school events.

The project at GCI Garment Plant, located at Pulaski State Prison (SP), started to develop after UCI’s model backpack, along with its measurement and bill of material, was sent to the facility. From there, they were able to develop their own pattern for the backpacks they wanted to create. About 15 to 20 offenders at Pulaski Garment worked on the backpacks project and developed a line system to ensure they would be able to create the backpacks in just a couple of weeks.

The process begins with tracing the patterns onto the various fabrics and then cutting them out with a power saw. Working with surplus fabric from Montgomery Upholstery and GCI vendor donations the colorful backpack flap pieces are sown together with straps attached and sent to Hancock Embroidery to have the GCI logo and the phrase “Excellence Drives Success” embroidered on it.

Once the flaps are returned and the front and back straps are sewn onto them, the top stitch is added to complete the bottom part of the bag. Next, the flap will be sewn together with the bottom part of the bag and then the draw string will be added on. Lastly, the insides of the bags are checked for any loose hanging threads that need to be clipped and then 18 backpacks are packaged into a box, put on a pallet, and loaded up.

Everything came together beautifully at hands of staff and offenders at Pulaski Garment, who usually spend their days creating garments for GCI. But they said the philanthropic force behind this partnership to give back with GCI and GDC, made the project extra special because they were helping children in their own communities from inside the prison. From the first cut of the patterned fabric to the final snip of errant thread, and at every step in the process, it was evident from finished goods that everyone put in their best effort.

“The girls jumped into doing it because the majority of them have children,” said Pulaski SP GCI Plant Supervisor II, Judy Caulder. “The children are going to benefit because children are always in need of something. I think backpacks is a good start for what we can do for them,” explained Caulder.

Many of the offenders who worked on the project are mothers. They say this assignment was special to them because it was their chance to make a positive difference for others.

One offender who worked on the project said “My kids said they were proud of me when I told them what I was working on.”

“It is interesting because a lot of the moms in here, their children are in DFCS or group homes or foster homes. So, it’s exciting for them to potentially be helping their child out,” explained offender Kristen McMordie. “It helps them to be able to go through the healing process to be able to help someone’s child, even if it’s not their own,” says McMordie.

“We plan to grow this particular effort on an annual basis” says Amy Pataluna, Deputy Executive Director of GCI “and to develop other community outreach projects as we can. This is just one more way that we are striving to meet our Vision of Positively Impacting the Lives of all Georgians.”