JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – As families walk into their place of worship this Easter Sunday, the inmates of the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility will likely be the last thing on their minds.
But for those planning to attend one of the chapels on post, there is a chance some of those inmates had a hand in supplying a little beauty and life to their celebration.
Thanks to a new program that seeks to partner the correctional facility’s horticultural program with the chapels on post, many of the Easter lilies seen decorating these churches were cultivated by a dedicated group of inmates from behind looming security fences.
“Rhoda Granum, a civilian parole officer at the facility, came up with the idea that we can save money on the instillation by growing Easter lilies for the chapels on post,” said Staff Sgt. David A. Resor, manager of the vocational initiatives at the facility. “We tried to do it last year, but we ended up missing the mark, because the plants just didn’t want to cooperate and ended up blooming two weeks too late. This year we are on track to deliver some viable, attractive plants.”
Resor said the inmates involved in the facility’s horticultural program, with guidance from a civilian instructor, do all of the work required to grow the plants.
“The inmates are all about this program,” he said. “They wholly support it, and they were pretty excited about being able to support a program beyond the fences of the facility.”
Resor emphasized that the program is by far the most popular vocational program at the facility because the inmates are able to see the physical results of their hard work.
“They also like that the program provides them an opportunity to do some good outside of the prison’s fences,” he added. Capt. Barry C. Malone, acting rear detachment chaplain for 555th Engineer Brigade, was on hand to receive the first delivery of flowers from the correctional facility, March 22, at Evergreen Chapel on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“The chapels on base usually have to buy their own flowers and arrangements from outside sources,” he said. “We usually have to make these big reservations, and it’s usually several hundred dollars because you have to schedule a special shipment in bulk.”
Malone said because the flowers are seen as nice but not a necessity, they are vulnerable to budget cuts.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to receive these,” said Malone. “The flowers are more than just flowers; they are mood enhancers, mood setters and mood changers. They really become a meaningful part of the chapel experience.”
Malone stressed that the chapels would be able to live without the flowers if necessary, but he thinks they benefit more than just the religious service, they help rehabilitate the inmates.
“It’s more than just a flower at this point; you’re looking at care, love, planning and all of the efforts the inmates exerted making sure these flowers grow,” he said. “They have a vested interest in those flowers. For us to receive the benefit from that without having to pay for it is an amazing blessing.”
“So now, not only are they serving a greater purpose at the facility, but they also serve a greater purpose here at the chapel,” he added.
Resor said the facility hopes to continue to increase the number of lilies that can be donated to the chapels on post and has discussed growing plants for other holidays.
“We initially started with 70 bulbs and now we have over 200, next year it will be even more,” he said. “The plan is, as we reclaim bulbs and build our inventory over time, to be able to provide lilies to every chapel on JBLM.”