In the Halloween classic, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Linus proclaims the mythical orange squash will rise out of the most sincere pumpkin patch.
In Owensboro, KY, some might say that perfect patch exists in the most surprising of places: The Daviess County Detention Center. Inmates there have helped grow more than 1500 pumpkins and 300 mums for distribution to nursing homes, schools and more, according to jailer Art Maglinger.
“We have several work assignments for them, including some of the gardening that we do when [inmates] go back for their details. They can see where the food comes from,” Maglinger said. “The pumpkins are a community project, and they know that they’re either gonna go to kids, nursing home residents or other good organizations. Not only are they getting sunlight, and they’re staying occupied working with their hands, but they also know that it’s going for a good cause. I think if you’d ask many of them, it’s very meaningful to them.”
In addition to growing the pumpkins, inmates in the substance abuse program also handwrite notes of encouragement for nursing home residents as part of a gift package. Once the harvest and other goodies are ready, Marla Carter and the team at her charity Faithful Friends Ministry hit the road to help residents decorate their own great pumpkin.
“I just put them all in my van, and then put them on [the nursing home’s] front porch,” said Carter. “There are a lot of residents that can’t use their hands, and so they kind of direct us and we paint for them or just as needed. [This year] we did pretty much every nursing home in Daviess County.”
Carter believes the effort is about much more than just pumpkins. It is about bridging a gap between marginalized communities. Isolation can negatively affect both nursing home residents and inmates. Even the smallest gestures, like gifting a pumpkin, can have an outsized impact.
“I often say they’re inmates in prison because of a choice they made, a bad choice they’ve made. People that are in nursing homes, their crime is they got old and sick, they’re not there by choice,” said Carter. “That’s definitely part of what we do too is making sure that people are aware of the needs and the culture inside [nursing homes]. Partnerships like this with the Detention Center are a great way to do that.”