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Monday, May 2, 2016

Prison pumpkins for Reelsville pupils

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Delivering Putnamville Correctional Facility-grown pumpkins to Reelsville Elementary School Monday, Lt. Keith Vinardi helps students get ready to celebrate Halloween.
PUTNAMVILLE -- Kindergarten and first-graders at Reelsville Elementary School Monday received 62 pumpkins grown by offenders in the Ivy Tech Horticulture Program at the Putnamville Correctional Facility.

Earlier this year while attending a donation presentation from the PLUS Unit offenders, Reelsville School representative Angie Nichols was approached by PCF Assistant Superintendent Tim Phelgey regarding a donation of pumpkins to students at Reelsville.

As a result, on May 15, offenders assigned to the prison's horticulture program were given a packet of pumpkin seeds and a section of garden that was designated as theirs.

Over the past several months, the offenders, under the instruction of horticulture supervisor Jack Mitchell tilled soil, spread compost, watered and weeded in anticipation of the harvest.

"They've really been excited and put a lot of effort in their work because they knew that the pumpkins were being given to kids," Mitchell said. "Every day they checked to see how much the pumpkins had grown and whose pumpkin was the biggest."

Finally, after many months of sweating in the sun, the offenders were able to harvest their work, and harvest they did. They picked more than 125 pumpkins from the vines with the largest one weighing 50 to 60 pounds.

"Pumpkins for punkins," said one of the offenders, who asked to remain anonymous. "I just wish we could be there see their faces when they get them."

Monday morning the offenders eagerly loaded 62 pumpkins on a trailer for delivery to the school.

"The expressions on the students' faces were priceless when they saw all of the pumpkins being carted into the classroom," Angie Nichols said.

"The donation of pumpkins is just one more thing to add to the list of ways that the staff and offenders of the Putnamville Correctional Facility have supported our school and community. Over the years they have generously assisted needy families with school supplies, clothing and Christmas gifts. It's refreshing to see children in our community benefit from their efforts. There is a great rapport between myself and the staff that I hope will continue in the future."

Students will decorate the pumpkins and display them in their homes, classrooms and during the upcoming Reelsville Elementary School Fall Festival.

Mitchell attributed the garden's success to the offender's hard work and to the generous loads of compost that was hauled to the garden by the facility's Compost/Recycling Operation's staff, and he expressed his intent to have an even bigger pumpkin garden next year.

The remaining pumpkins will be used in the facility's Ivy Tech Culinary Arts Program.

"Everything at Putnamville is a joint venture," PCF Supt. Stanley Knight said. "Offenders, correctional and contractual staff working together to provide invaluable services to our community and children. I am very proud of the giving spirit and thoughtfulness of those in my charge."

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