Prison Relations Advisory Committee (PRAC)

The Soap Project

Thank you to graphic designer Dr. Karen Blacks for her Soap Project poster

The Soap Project is Still Going…And What We Can Learn From It!

 

“We all just got the soap delivered during the count. It was the absolutely most beautiful thing. Some of the women were crying they were so happy. God bless you! They want to at least send a thank you card. Could you please furnish me with an address as soon as possible so that I could send the card out? It is the least we could do. We are all so grateful. What a miracle!”

Thank you very much for thinking of me and my sisters here at Taconic Correctional Facility in the midst of this pandemic crisis. It is a very welcome and humbling gesture. Often times us women are forgotten, so I highly appreciate you! As a college student here at Taconic, I have been low on hope and supplies and your gesture has cured both things. I really cannot express my gratitude enough.”

Above are two of the many thank-you notes received from the women of Taconic and Bedford Hills Correctional Facilities. They thanked each and every one of you in this community, and other communities, who have reached out to help them during a time that is anxiety-producing for us all; and which to them, is terrifying. Please scroll down to read all of the thank you notes from the women. They will warm your heart and remind you that we are all better than the worst thing that we have ever done. We all deserve grace. We all deserve mercy.

When Hans Hallundbaek, Director of the Interfaith Prison Partnership Program, had the idea that a community has a moral obligation to adopt its local prison, no one imagined how the Town of Bedford and its residents would step up. A community came together and realized that the women in these two prisons are also their neighbors.

Out of a successful community event bringing together over 100 town residents and eighteen organizations which work in prisons in the Fall of 2019, Chris Burdick, Town Supervisor, proposed the establishment of a Prison Relations Advisory Committee (PRAC) to the Town of Bedford to advise the Town of prison issues.

When established, its Chair described the Committee as a “Soap to Sidewalks” effort, working on micro to macro issues. Little did she know that soap would soon become “the” word of the day. Because the soap issued to the women in our two prisons is lye-based, and we are all required to do frequent hand washing, there was an immediate need for non-caustic soap.

The outpouring from the community has been generosity at its best.  Over 20,000 bars of soap have been collected, with one company, Michel Design Works, donating 1000 bars, Mt Kisco Presbyterian Women donating 1000 bars, Kellogg’s and Lawrence donating 300 bars, Antioch Baptist Church, Katonah Methodist Church, the Bedford Hills Women’s Club, the Dobbs Ferry community, the First Presbyterian Church of Ossining, the First Presbyterian Church of Palisades, and many hundreds of individual donors, to name a few.  Each of our neighbors in prison now get a weekly “gift” of a bar(s) of soap, and we are still collecting non-alcohol-based, sealed soap.

 

Notes of Thanks

To read the heartfelt notes from the women who received your donations, click on the arrows.

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your generosity towards us during this corona pandemic. The fact that we aren’t being overlooked due to our circumstances means everything. I don’t know how I can thank you all. I appreciate it. Please stay safe and remain well. If you know anyone who has been affected, remain strong, faithful and hopeful.”

Notes of Thanks

“We are beyond grateful for the soap, cards, school supplies, etc. For being at a place like this in a time like this wears us down. You all as a group have boosted our spirits and put smiles on our faces. So again, we thank you for your extreme kindness and donations to us women”.

Notes of Thanks

“We are beyond grateful for the soap, cards, school supplies, etc. For being at a place like this in a time like this wears us down. You all as a group have boosted our spirits and put smiles on our faces. So again, we thank you for your extreme kindness and donations to us women”.

 

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you for thinking of us during this health crisis. I extend profound gratitude for helping us. May God bless you and your hearts. I wish you all well and stay strong. We’ll get through this!”

Notes of Thanks

“I wanted to give you a thank you for giving us the soap and supplies we need during this corona pandemic. Some of us inmates don’t have the means to get packages or the money to buy soap. It’s truly appreciated. God bless y’all.”

Notes of Thanks

“Keep us in your prayers and we will do the same. Some are ashamed by their writing, so we all just wanna say thank you! God bless!”

Notes of Thanks

“This letter is to express my appreciation for your generosity and compassion during this time. My prayers go out to comfort and protect you, your families and your associates.”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you very much for being so kind to us. Thank you for having our backs. Thank you for all of the supplies you provided for us!!”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you for your kindness. Your concern and caring are appreciated.”

Notes of Thanks

“To the Bedford Community: Thank you for the donations. Words cannot express how much I appreciate your act of kindness. May’s God’s blessing return to you in hundred folds.”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you for caring. It has come a such a great time and needed.”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you so much. It’s nice to know that someone out in the world thinks about the people incarcerated.”

Notes of Thanks

“Your kindness is inspiring! Thanks for the joy, the love, and the generosity.”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you so much for the soap. I ran out and really needed it. Corcraft (the prison soap) itches.”

Notes of Thanks

“During this pandemic, you were selfless and thought of us. Many blessing to you and yours.”

Notes of Thanks

“As Jesus said, ‘You are the light of the world.’ Thanks for being the light to our lives by sharing God’s love with us”

Notes of Thanks

“I would like to personally thank you for your kindness. It truly means a lot to me.”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you with things we need to stay strong.”

Notes of Thanks

“I would like to thank you for the soap. We are very thankful for your kindness in this time of need. God bless you all. It means a lot to us all we was a thought. Please stay safe.”

Notes of Thanks

“I would like to thank you for your generosity for everything that you are doing for us.”

Notes of Thanks

“Love you for so much in so little time.”

Notes of Thanks

It was so nice of you to care for us in such a hard time.”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you very much for thinking of me and my sisters here at Taconic Correctional Facility in the midst of this pandemic crisis. It is a very welcome and humbling gesture. Often times us women are forgotten, so I highly appreciate you! As a college student here at Taconic, I have been low on hope and supplies and your gesture has cured both things. I really cannot express my gratitude enough.”

Notes of Thanks

“We all just got the soap delivered during the count. It was the absolutely most beautiful thing. Some of the women were crying they were so happy. God bless you! They want to at least send a thank you card. Could you please furnish me with an address as soon as possible so that I could send the card out? It is the least we could do. We are all so grateful. What a miracle!”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you so much for your kindness and concern”.

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you so much for your kindness and concern

Notes of Thanks

“To the Town of Bedford Hills, thank you for your hard work in this time and need.”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you for the soap. It is very much appreciated in this time where our family is struggling to stay safe and alive. Thank you.”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you so much for the soap and cards. We need that.”

Notes of Thanks

“We need these things to stay hopeful.”

Notes of Thanks

“We would like to just say thank you all for the help.”

Notes of Thanks

“Thank you guys for everything. We love them.”

Notes of Thanks

“We so enjoy what you guys did for us. Thanks a lot.”

Notes of Thanks

“We love you guys for thinking about all of us.”

Notes of Thanks

 

“Thank you so much for caring for us. We love the soap and supplies. Love you guys”.

.The First Presbyterian Church of Katonah has been kind enough to offer its front porch as a drop off location. Donors can drop off the soap there without any human contact, or mail boxes of soap there from a big box store (see address next sentence). Members of PRAC, Anne Lloyd, Carol Parker, Bobbi Bittker and Mark Sindeband, have been picking up the soap from the drop off location on the porch of The Church House of Katonah Presbyterian Church at 31 Bedford Road, Katonah, NY, counting it, and taking the appropriate number to each of the two prisons.  Joining this community effort, the High School Youth Group at Katonah Presbyterian Church has offered to help with pick up, counting and delivery to the prison.

But the generosity did not stop there.  Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Mahopac offered to start sewing masks for the inmates and staff in the prisons.  Soon, three other groups also jumped on board to sew masks to help to keep the women, who live in close quarters where social distancing is not often possible, safer.  One of the groups is led by a former member of Katonah Presbyterian Church who has moved to Oregon; while living here, she visited an inmate in prison. Other groups are led by a registered nurse, a second DAR group, and another is the Bruderhof community.  All of the mask-masking groups have been coordinated by PRAC member Carol Parker, who has also delivered all of the masks to the prison for both inmates and staff. Carol is also working with a group who has volunteered to make plastic shields to cover the masks for those working in the medical units in the prisons.

A request was made for twenty hot plates so that inmates could socially distance and cook in their units rather than eat in the dining hall; twenty-three were donated by the community.  A community resident donated a plastic fork and spook for each inmate at both facilities so that she could have her own eating utensils, which she could then wash and reuse just for herself. Another request was for wipes to use after each phone call to clean the phones; packages arrived within the week.  A request was not made, but an individual in the community took it upon herself to order 1000 bottles of hand lotion for her neighbors in the two prisons when she heard how the lye-based soap was hard on their hands.  Those lotions were counted out and delivered to the two prisons by the youth of the Katonah Presbyterian Church, under the direction of High School leader Debra Lang.

This is an extraordinary example of the best of us in the worst of times.  What started as a hope to maybe get 1000 bars of soap led to 7000 bars of soap and counting, to masks, to hot plates, to wipes, to hand lotion, to plastic ware, to face shields.  This is a community that has come together to support each other.  This is a community that understands how lucky we are to have these women in prison in our midst because they give us the opportunity to be our best selves. In healing others, we heal ourselves. Thank you to the residents of the Town of Bedford for standing up for our neighbors. 

 

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