Clockwise from top left: Judy O’Dine, Ginny Jaques, Edna Hayward, Alayne Adams, and Linnea Groom display a few of the Christmas gift bags they prepared for women at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women. (M2/W2 Association - Special to The News)

Clockwise from top left: Judy O’Dine, Ginny Jaques, Edna Hayward, Alayne Adams, and Linnea Groom display a few of the Christmas gift bags they prepared for women at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women. (M2/W2 Association - Special to The News)

Christian org provides gift bags to female prisoners in Maple Ridge

M2/W2 Association – Restorative Christian Ministries delivered 75 bags to Alouette Correctional

A group of volunteers with Abbotsford’s M2/W2 Association – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) prepared and delivered 75 gift bags to women at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women (ACCW) this past Tuesday (Dec. 15).

The bags were sewn by the volunteers and filled with toiletries, holiday treats, colouring books, pencil crayons, crosswords, and more.

They also included left a Christmas card for each woman, and a video of holiday greetings and songs.

“We make the bags every year,” said Linnea Groom, Volunteer Coordinator at M2/W2. “It’s so wonderful to make things special for people.

“I love being able to contribute to a little bit of joy.”

READ MORE: Inmates released early from Maple Ridge prisons to stop the spread of COVID-19

M2/W2 provides mentorship and practical support to people affected by incarceration, and has delivered the gift bags to ACCW since the prison opened in 2004.

In previous years, volunteers have presented a Christmas event for the women, however, as pandemic-related restrictions on visitors and volunteers programs continue, Groom didn’t expect there’d be a program.

She wasn’t even sure whether the gift bags would happen.

But in August, she was contacted by BC Corrections staff, who invited Groom to prepare the usual Christmas program—but in video format.

The institution also said the gift bags would be welcome.

The bags are made from cloth, and feature festive patterns and string-tied enclosures. The contents were pre-approved by BC Corrections and donated by Partners in Hope, a non-profit that has teamed up with M2/W2 on this project from the beginning.

“The women love the bags,” said Groom. “They use them throughout the year to store toiletries and letters.”

Raymond Robyn, M2/W2’s Executive Director pointed out how important it is the bags are made by hand.

“The efforts our volunteers put into finding the fabric, cutting and sewing the bags, and preparing the contents is a reflection of their compassion for the women at ACCW.”

Many of the women who sewed and prepared the gift bags are also volunteer mentors with M2/W2’s in-prison mentorship program.

Due to the pandemic, M2/W2’s in-prison mentorship program, along with other volunteer programs, has been suspended. In its absence, the organization has been encouraging volunteers to communicate through letters and phone calls, when possible.

Before the pandemic, over 200 M2/W2 volunteers were mentoring people at 13 federal and provincial institutions across BC. Through its programs, M2/W2 shares outside perspectives with people in prison and on parole, and supports them as they seek restoration, healing, and accountability. Many mentors and their matches form long-term friendships.

Prison can be a lonely place, especially at Christmas. This year many people are feeling isolated. The gift bags and Christmas video help maintain an important connection to the community.

One former inmate at ACCW described how it felt to open the bags.

“We got the chance to be like everyone else. We got a present and we knew it was given by women who cared about us and our well-being. It was a time to think about something different than the doldrums of prison life. You’d hear ‘Look what I got!’ or ‘I can sure use this,’ or ‘Smell this shampoo! It’s awesome!’ When you looked around you’d see the sparkle in eyes that were once dimmed by time.”

The volunteers look forward to returning to ACCW in person soon—hopefully by next Christmas—so they can continue to lift spirits and build mentoring relationships with the women incarcerated there.



ronan.p.odoherty@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

charitymaple ridgeprison

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Conservative MP Marc Dalton (The News files)
LETTER: Recovery is best solution for solving opioid crisis

During mental health week, MP draws attention to support needed for those addicted to illicit drugs

A local letter writer is pleased the muncipality is restricting new vape shops. (Vape360)
LETTER: Maple Ridge educator lauds council’s limiting of vape shops

Existing shops will be grandfathered in but no new shops can open, council decided

Maple Ridge’s Sherry Brosnan captured this picture of Gold Creek in Golden Ears Provincial Park, as a light fog rolls over the water. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Fog rolls over the water

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Pitt Meadows Day was celebrated with drive by cheers last year. (Special to The News)
Pitt Meadows day will be celebrated virtually again

80th anniversary of the popular celebration will have to be enjoyed from home

Students across school district watched videos and did activities geared towards mental health. (Special to The News)
National day of mental health marked by Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows school district

Child and Youth Mental Health Day started by FamilySmart in 2007

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Twenty-nine staff members at Sunrise Poultry Processors Ltd. in Newton have tested positive for the virus, according to an information bulletin from Fraser Health Saturday (May 8). The health authority issued a 10-day closure order, effective May 7. (Image: Google Maps)
29 staff test positive for COVID-19 at Surrey poultry processing plant

Meantime, outbreak over at Surrey Memorial Hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Most Read