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Publication date: Monday, 18 December 2017
With Christmas approaching, Grafton Governor Michelle Paynter is donating over 100 crocheted toys, bags, headbands, scrunchies, cushions and blankets on behalf of inmates to the Salvation Army, Anglicare and St Vincent de Paul.
Acting Assistant Superintendent Rachel Fodera came up with the initiative after her grandmother passed away, and she started donating some time to the local aged care facility.
"When I was at the aged care home, all I could think about was my Nan's beloved crochet blanket, and how she used to make everyone in the family one," Ms Fodera said.
"So it got me wondering if inmates might be willing to donate their time and skills to crochet for the residents at the aged care facility, and to teach other inmates who didn't know how to crochet."
Governor Paynter loved the idea: "This program helps rehabilitate inmates, allows them to acquire new skills, and make practical, comforting items for our community's most vulnerable and needy."
Within a week the first blanket was completed by an inmate with wool she'd paid for herself.
Now many of the centre's 20 inmates have caught crocheting fever, making blankets, scarves, beanies, pillows, face washers and stuffed toys for the needy and vulnerable.
One of Ms Fodera's most cherished memories is the touching response from patients and staff at the Mid North Coast Cancer Institute in Coffs Harbour on receiving 50 blankets, 50 beanies and 40 scarves to help comfort them during chemotherapy.
"They said it was the biggest donation they'd ever received, and I'm still overwhelmed by their gratitude and bravery," Ms Fodera said.
All inmates are invited join this unique crocheting circle, donating their own time and yarn. Although Ms Fodera said younger inmates are initially dismissive, looking at it as "an old lady thing", they soon see the fun and companionship, as well as having something productive to do during their time in the cells.
"As well as helping the time pass more quickly and productively, it offers them a wonderful opportunity to give something to the community's most vulnerable while they pay their debt to society," Ms Fodera said.
Anyone wishing to make wool donations can leave them at the Grafton Correctional Centre administration building, 170 Hoof Street or contact the centre on 6642 0301 to arrange an alternative drop-off point.