Inmates connect with local parish community through service project
Story and photos by Stephen Kiltonic
GREENFIELD – The old carriage house at Holy Trinity Parish had become an eyesore. It had been years since the building was last painted and it was showing wear and tear.
But with all the parish funds earmarked toward painting of the church, rectory and the renovation of the parish hall, there was little money left over for other projects. However, Msgr. Ronald Yargeau, Holy Trinity’s pastor, heard about a program at the nearby Franklin County Jail and House of Correction in which inmates worked on various community service projects.
“Monsignor called the sheriff’s office because he heard what a fabulous job our crew had done earlier in the year at St. Mary’s and asked if we could paint the garage,” said Christopher Donelan, Franklin County sheriff. Earlier in the year, he said, inmates did a “fabulous” painting the entire interior of St. Mary Church in Orange.
“You know everybody has an old garage in their backyard that’s desperately in need of paint and monsignor’s concern was they had invested so much in beatifying the parish … just to have this big hulk of a building in the backyard. We were happy to accommodate him,” added Donelan.
So, for the last two weeks, a paint crew comprised of six inmates has been scraping priming, painting and caulking the carriage house which is now used as a garage. They also have landscaped around the structure and replaced rotting boards.
While the parish paid for the materials – paint, brushes, etc. – all the labor was performed free of charge, which resulted in thousands of dollars in savings for Holy Trinity Parish.
“Certainly, to a parish that works off our collections, if we could get the work done at a lesser price, that’s a benefit to our parish,” said Holy Trinity Deacon Paul DeCarlo, who estimates that if would have cost anywhere from $5-7,000 or more had the parish hired an outside contractor.
The community service program is inmate-centered, with the goal to train inmates with a skill that they can productively use after they are released. The majority of inmates in the facility, Donelan added, are incarcerated for larceny or breaking and entering. “Generally, it’s bad behavior that resulted from drug abuse or intoxication,” he explained. The inmates also have worked on other projects in Franklin County for historical societies and performed ground maintenance at cemeteries and for other non-profits and municipalities.
“Virtually, a lot of work that towns wouldn’t do because of budget cuts, these guys pick it up and get it done,” said Donelan. “They do a meticulous job and they do it professionally.”
Deacon DeCarlo said that 12 shutters also were taken off the front of the rectory and repainted. It was expected that the crew will be on-site another week or so to finish the job.
Donelan believes it’s also important that the inmates are brought back after the job is done so “they can see the community extend its appreciation.”
Over the past two years, Donelan has pushed some of the inmates toward faith-based groups. “It’s important for them to have connections with the entire community which is why we have these programs,” he said. “But for some of these gentlemen to have the opportunity to connect with a faith-based community can sometimes mean the difference between success and failure when they get out.”
Deacon DeCarlo said Msgr. Yargeau, as well as the entire parish, is pleased with the work of the crew and that the parish would "absolutely" engage the services of the inmates for any future parish projects.
“To make it look as beautiful as it does, they’ve gone above and beyond what our expectations were. Hopefully, we can get another hundred years out of the building,” said DeCarlo.