SC Inmates handcraft items for nursing home residents during COVID-19


Inmates across South Carolina are using their talents to lift the spirits of nursing home residents whose visits and activities have come to a halt because of COVID-19.

Hard time is even harder these days at the state’s correctional institutions.

For weeks, families haven’t been allowed to visit their loved ones behind bars.

Volunteers can’t go inside to facilitate programs.

Hundreds of inmates have been locked in their rooms all day, every day, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But a newly created project is helping to occupy their minds.

Inmates handcrafted more than 2,000 items ranging from cards to bookmarks to knitted caps to put in the hands of South Carolina nursing home residents who are sharing some of the same restrictions.

“We typically are hustling and bustling around here with activities, dining and church,” Midlands Health and Rehab Administrator, Jim Scott, said.  “And all that has pretty much come to a halt, other than the one-on-ones we can do in the rooms.  Getting things like this is a real boost for our folks, I’m sure they’ll all love it,” Scott added.

The Department of Corrections and the South Carolina Department on Aging teamed up on a project dubbed Operation Spread the Joy.  The idea is to lift the spirits of nursing home residents whose everyday highlights have been taken away.

“We have over 45,000 residents in nursing homes across the state, and during this pandemic, we are unable to get in as an advocate and check on them,” Department on Aging Director Connie Munn said. “Family members aren’t able to get in, so being able to have this kind of support from others to go in and have these … this is something you can touch and hold, and that is so important for the residents inside,” she added.

But like so often in projects like these, the ones giving the gifts are rewarded, too.

“Being able to put a smile on people’s face is more than just a blessing for us to do, even while we’re incarcerated,” an inmate from Goodman Correctional Institution said.

“We’re just excited to give back to the community in this tough time that we’re all experiencing together.  We know how much it means to receive a small gift or card, and we want to do the same to our elderly community and assisted living facilities, “ an inmate from Manning Reentry/Work Release Center said.

In some cases, hours were poured into a single gift.  The talent among the inmates is impressive and sure to be appreciated by those missing the touch and smile of those they love.

“It’s good for the folks of this facility, but it’s also good for those who are incarcerated. It gives them a sense of purpose.  They’ve made bad decisions, but they’re making good decisions now to help other people,” SCDC Director Bryan Stirling said.