Numerous churches, Department of Corrections workers and members of Pott. County communities joined Virginia Brendle and the G.I.F.T.S Charity group to pack sacks for inmates at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center Tuesday, Nov. 19.
According to Brendle, who is the Chairman of G.I.F.T.S, the organization was created over 19 years ago and it provides sacks of approved hygiene products to the women at Mabel Bassett.
“(G.I.F.T.S) stands for Giving Incarcerated Females Truth and Support and the truth is Jesus Christ,” Brendle said. “The support is everyone. The communities, churches, civic organizations and individuals.”
Brendle explained she and 35 volunteers will distribute the sacks of hygiene products to every woman in Mabel Bassett on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
“This is an annual event and it’s a plastic sack…and we’re allowed to bring them in shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste and we’re bringing in toilet paper,” Brendle said.
Along with the hygiene products, Brendle said each woman also receives eight greeting cards, a bookmark and a calendar.
The charity began, Brendle said, when the prison approached community churches and requested them to provide hygiene products to the indigent.
The chairman explained that she and a group of volunteers decided to go beyond the prison’s request and compile products for every woman at Mabel Bassett.
At Tuesday’s sacking event, Brendle said 26 DOC workers came to help, about 10 different churches were represented and around 20 random individuals assisted as well.
“This prison is in Pottawatomie County. This is in our back yard…We have Shawnee girls locked up there, but they’ve all got a soul…and when we give them this little gift, we’re touching lives,” Brendle said.
In addition to the sacks, Brendle said she started a mentor program at the prison and she along with about 24 other volunteers meet with the women of Mabel Bassett every Monday night.
Brendle said she also holds a church service every Saturday night for the inmates at the prison.
The chairman explained she, her church Blackburn Chapel Baptist and other churches raise money and collect donations all year long.
“When we have funds left over. We are sending 12 girls through college. Paying all of their books, tuition, supplies and everything,” Brendle said. “We’ve had two graduate. So, this program has far reaching effects.”
According to Rhonda Moore, volunteer at Mabel Bassett and mentor, working with Brendle is an honor and she’s really making a difference in peoples’ lives.
“Ms. Virginia takes something that is so serious that these girls are incarnated, and she takes it and she brings joy into their life,” Rhonda Moore said. “It is a privilege to work with her and volunteer with her.”
Over the years, Brendle said G.I.F.T.S has provided sacks to thousands of women and most of them are extremely grateful.
According to mentor and volunteer Linda O’Dell, many of the inmates cry upon receiving their bag and they strive to make its contents last.
“Sometimes the girls will immediately burst into tears because they don’t know why anyone would love them enough to give them a gift,” O’Dell said. “This gift is unconditional…It’s a life changing thing.”
Brendle said along with the inmates, the charity moves volunteers and others involved with the fundraiser.
“It touches us. It changes us. You could not experience that and not be touched,” Brendle said.