WILLIAMSBURG – As the previous night’s freeze persisted, the parking lot at the Whitley County Detention Center was once again transformed into a rally-like drive-thru that saw families of those incarcerated and in need receiving boxes of food and other gifts before the holiday season.
“We have turkeys, hams, stuffing / dressing, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes,” Whitley County jailer Brian Lawson said on the food boxes. that he and other volunteers were handing out. “And everyone will have a pie,” he added.
Lawson said that thanks to sponsors and volunteers, the group had more than 150 turkeys and hams to give to families. Lisa Garrison, community relations specialist at United Healthcare, said her company is keen to get involved because its goal is to help make community members happy and healthy. She said United Healthcare helped provide around $ 500 worth of turkeys and hams for Saturday’s event.
“I’m here because everyone matters and the families of those in prison deserve a Happy Thanksgiving just like everyone else,” said Garrison, wearing the same matching red T-shirt as the other volunteers on Saturday.
Former Navy and Navy veteran and current Detention Center Colonel Andrew Fuson echoed Garrison’s comments, as he helped distribute boxes on Saturday morning.
“I see it that way, it’s our community here,” he said. “The children of these detainees go to school with my children.
Garrison said Lawson’s wife Ashley Lawson and a community of women contacted her about the event. Integral in planning and organizing the event, Ashley previously enlisted current Corbin City Commissioner Seth Reeves to sponsor the event. Reeves had helped sponsor a similar giveaway the Lawsons hosted last year and said he viewed the events as great ways to give back.
“It’s just a big event for the community to help these families who are affected by incarceration, or just people less fortunate than others,” said Reeves, who has also already filed his intention to run. as District Judge for Whitley and McCreary Counties. .
“It was kind of last minute last year, so this year with COVID and everything, we got together about a month ago and started planning it and figuring out how we could make it bigger and better, ”added Reeves.
Lawson said he was extremely grateful and grateful to the other sponsors of the event, including Whitley County Superintendent John Siler, Mike Campbell of Remax, Whitley County Education Council Chair Brenda Hill , Cindy Bowlin, Southern Health Partners, Kellwell Food, Whitley and the County of McCreary District. Judge Cathy Prewitt and Dry County Clothing.
“I just want to thank the people of Whitley County,” Lawson said. “I want to thank the people who came out and all the people who helped and donated to help set this up and make it possible.”
The event also benefited from the help of Linda Davis, Stephanie Kingsley and Angelika Weaver who provided coloring books and other educational activities in gift bags handed out to families. Lawson said he and Ashley also collected old toys to give away in the gift bags.
“We wanted to make sure the kids also get a little something,” he said. “Because when you get a box of food the kids don’t always understand the value of it. “
Lawson said he and his family have always made a point of trying to give back to the community. He said in the past they had helped sponsor and host a community dinner at Whitley County High School, which was started by his brother, then principal, Bob Lawson.
With COVID canceling last year’s dinner, Lawson said he and his family had started to think about other ways to give back to the community and the idea for the freebies was born. Since then, Lawson, volunteers and prison staff have distributed backpacks, toys, food and other items to families in Whitley County at several giveaway events.
And while helping provide a warm, nutritious meal for families to eat on Thanksgiving is an admirable cause, Lawson says it goes beyond that for him.
“I think if you look around our country and see what is going on, we need more time at a kitchen table,” he said. “We need to start sitting down as a family again and spending time as a close family and instilling these values in our children and families,” Lawson added. “We have to bring the family part back to our homes. “
Much like similar events held in the past, Lawson said that inmates at the detention center helped put the boxes together and helped with many “behind the scenes” things needed to make Saturday’s event possible. As Lawson and the other volunteers interacted with those in the vehicles, inmates Greg Jacobs and Shawn Dople stood in the prison lobby, filling boxes at the request of participants. They then handed the boxes to a volunteer, who delivered them to a vehicle.
“One of the things that we like about bringing inmates into these activities, they don’t get a lot of recognition, but they’re behind the scenes putting these boxes together and doing a lot of work to evolve these things and power. come together, ”Lawson said. “They feel like they’re giving back, it gives them a certain self-esteem,” he added of what the inmates who volunteered told him. “I just think it’s a great thing for them to do.”