Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

History Laid out to a 'T' ; Inmates Used Shirts for Quilting Task to Help Goodwill's 'Ducks on the Ohio'

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

History Laid out to a 'T' ; Inmates Used Shirts for Quilting Task to Help Goodwill's 'Ducks on the Ohio'

Article excerpt

During Evansville Goodwill Industries' annual Ducks on the Ohio fundraising event, thousands of little rubber ducks are released into the water for a short trip down the Ohio River. Recently, a bunch of promotional "Ducks" T-shirts made a journey of their own - from Evansville to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility and back.

The shirts went to a group of male inmates at the Sullivan County prison, who used the fabric as part of a large and elaborate quilt.

Yes, male prison inmates. Doing quilting.

They're part of the prison's Purposeful Living Units Serve (PLUS) program, which is a 16-month faith-and character-based program designed to teach inmates an alternative to criminal thoughts and behaviors. Participants must complete 320 hours of community service, and quilting is a big part of that.

Prison volunteer Dan Ashby of Evansville said about half of Wabash's 200 PLUS program members are involved in quilt-making. Last year, he said, the group made and donated more than 5,000 quilts. Some go to nonprofit groups that auction them to raise money. Others go to premature babies at hospitals, or to homeless shelters, or to veterans organizations.

With their tattoos and tough backgrounds, these aren't your typical quilters.

"It's definitely nontraditional," Ashby said.

Quilting sessions are affected by prison security rules, said Rich Larsen, Wabash Valley's public information officer. Inmates can only use blunt-edged children's scissors, Larsen said. As for the sewing machines, "all needles are always accounted for before and after each day's work," he said.

The quilting inmates rely on donated items, which is how Goodwill came into the picture.

"I had been looking for a more secure, regular source of material, and got in touch with Goodwill," Ashby said.

The organization accepts donations of clothing, household furnishings and other items - including fabric - and generates money by reselling those items at its stores.

After meeting with Ashby, Goodwill agreed to set aside the fabric that came in. Ashby said he stops by about once a month at the South Green River Road headquarters, and picks up a load.

Ashby said he also gets donations from other Evansville-area groups, including church sewing circles, quilting guilds and businesses.

"Our guys are very, very very appreciative of the work that Goodwill does for us," Ashby said.

As a gesture of thanks, Ashby asked Goodwill if there was a special project the prisoners could make for the organization.

Turns out, there was.

Goodwill has commemorative T-shirts made for each year's Ducks event, and by now the group has a lot of leftover shirts.

This year's duck race, which takes place Aug. 3, is Goodwill's 19th annual event.

Judi Early, community relations director at Goodwill, said the organization had been wanting to use some of the Ducks shirts in a quilt, but it was a project that never really got off the ground. …

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