By ANGIE HAFLICH
Youth at the Juvenile Detention Center are giving back to the community, while learning a new skill and participating in a program that teaches them about teamwork and develops self-confidence and sense of belonging.
Kathy Jackson, Mary Jo Schultz and Darlene Simpson, part of Trinity Lutheran Church's Piece Makers sewing group, volunteered to hold a baby quilt-making program at the JDC about three weeks ago. Every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., the sewing group members bring flannel squares and help the kids who participate put them together.
"I don't think we expected for them to have such positive comments coming from it," JDC Director Katrina Pollet said. "They're really enjoying the giving back idea."
The kids, who range in age from 10 to 17, are making the baby quilts for the Family Crisis Center and ABC Pregnancy Center. One of the girls currently being housed at the JDC, present at Thursday night's session, said providing quilts for babies is her favorite part.
Mark Pinkney, JDC program manager and volunteer coordinator, said the program has also helped the kids learn a number of life skills needed in practically every arena in life.
"When we first started, they said, 'Pairing up, you get a lot more done quicker,'" Pinkney said.
She also said it's exciting to watch the kids realize they can do something that results in an end product.
"They're really intrigued that they can do this and see the end result. A lot of times, they don't get to see the end result. Now, once they see it, they're like, 'Oh I can do something,' and I think that's the most exciting part," Pinkney said.
Pollet said giving back to the community is one of the most valuable lessons for the kids.
"Anytime the kids can volunteer and get to see the good feelings they can get from volunteering, it gives them self-confidence and it builds their pride in the community," she said, adding that this helps deter destructive behavior. "It gets their mind on somebody else because it isn't just all about them or the problems they have. They get to see that they can help somebody else."
Jackson, Schultz and Simpson, as well as Bernie Reetz, who sometimes fills in, hold the sessions every Thursday at the JDC.
"The kids design the front. They start with 25 squares and then they just make up their design and they sew the squares together into rows. Then they sew the rows together, and they end up with a top, and then we put the back on for them," Jackson said, adding that the kids have a lot of creativity.
"It's been amazing to see the color schemes they come up with," she said.
She said the kids have also come up with several ideas about other items that could be made.
"One of the students suggested burp rags, which would be fairly easy to do. They kind of come up with the ideas, so we'll go with it if it's workable," Jackson said.
At some point, Jackson said, they will provide quilts or other items to either nursing homes, veterans homes or other local charities. Schultz said since they began the sewing group about 10 years ago, they try to determine each year what organizations they will provide the completed products to.
She said that they were surprised when on the first night of holding the session at the JDC, 16 kids participated.
"We went through 250 squares that first night," Schultz said.
The number of kids present at the JDC varies as kids are released and new ones are brought in, but Pinkney said they have seen 90 to 95 percent of the kids participating in the quilt making session each week.
"We'll get different kids in and they'll be rotating in and out, so hopefully we'll reach a lot of different types of kids with this," she said.
Jackson said that more flannel fabric is always needed and those who wish to donate it can drop it off at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1010 Fleming St., or at the JDC, 507 W. Santa Fe St.
Pollet said the center has added several other classes and programs offered by other community volunteers.
"We also have a creative writing class; we have religious services both on Tuesday and Saturday. We're just trying to increase the programming," she said.