Some weeks this blog will be snippets or stories of the past that attempt to paint a picture of what actually happened during our decade with the system, how it impacted my family and how those events sparked my desire to engage in justice reform work.
Some weeks, like this one, it will be current events and the “gut checks” that occur in my day-to-day life in this work.
Depending on the facility, men and women in prison are sometimes allowed to make things for their loved ones. This is of course only possible for people who have friends or family on the outside who put money “on their books” to buy supplies inside and pay for shipping home. So not everyone gets this privilege. When I was pregnant with my daughter my mom not only learned to make blankets herself (she felt she needed to start doing “grandma” things – but much prefers to be called “Nonna”), she engaged an army of afghan makers inside who created some of the most beautiful works of art ever made for keeping babies warm. These gifts were made with such love and with so much talent that it’s hard to describe how it felt getting those boxes in the months leading up to the birth of my daughter and for the two years after she was born before my mom came home. To this day they are some of my most valued possessions.
This week I went to the headquarters of the Missouri Department of Corrections in Jefferson City to talk about promoting Ava’s Grace system-wide to Missouri’s more than 33,000 thousand currently incarcerated men and women so that their children might apply for our scholarship. I told them about speaking to the women in the facility in Chillicothe, MO a few years back for their “Girls Rock” program and that the women there presented me with beautiful handmade quilt. I unexpectedly choked up recalling the story because it reminded me of the immeasurable amount of love I have felt every time I have received these gifts, made in a place where hope is scarce but humanity still exists. My almost unprofessional slip-up made them pause and made me slightly red in the face. The team there gave me the grace of a bit of silence and we moved on. And together, we are going to do powerful things for kids in Missouri who have experienced what 5 million kids nationwide face every day – the loss of a loved one to our system.
With Gratitude and Hope for the Future,
Founder, Ava’s Grace Scholarship Program
Mom – CEO – Justice Warrior