Court Employees and Jail Inmates Team Up to Support Kids
Jenna Gant | April 8, 2015
Delaware County jail inmates can stitch more stuffed animals for children thanks to court employees who hosted a fundraiser to pay for new sewing machines.
It's for a community service program that has inmates constructing stuffed bunnies and bears for children who come before the Delaware County Probate and Juvenile Court for reasons including divorce proceedings and adoptions.
"It's such a special day for those kids who have often been in abusing homes, who have been in very unstable environments, and are finally getting that permanent home," Judge David Hejmanowski said. "And this is just something that makes it a little more special, something a little more memorable for them from that day. A 3- or 4-year-old might not remember the legal proceedings that went on, but they'll remember that stuffed animal."
Judge Hejmanowski's following in his predecessor's footsteps as he continues handing out stuffed animals in his courtroom. Retired Judge Ken Spicer started the venture more than 10 years ago as a way to comfort little kids.
When the two traveled to the Orient Correctional Complex earlier this year to talk about the program, Judge Hejmanowski noticed that the stuffed animal creators lacked working sewing machines.
"One of the things we noticed was although apparently at one point they had eight or nine operational sewing machines in the community service room, they were down to three, and two of those three were about on their last legs," Judge Hejmanowski said.
Court employees set up an internal fundraiser to pay for additional sewing machines in late March and raised nearly $600 through a raffle and selling breakfast foods and desserts. A sewing machine was also donated. The staff said they raised the funds for a worthy cause.
"It gives joy. There are a lot of negative things that can happen here, but that's one of the very positive things," said Billie Jo Propst, probate office manager.
"It's just something wonderful about the way in which the kids' faces light up when you bring that animal out," Judge Hejmanowski said.
The inmates and court employees encourage a brighter future to the dozens of children who each year receive one of the stuffed toys.