KYLE, Texas (KXAN) – It's a sight you don't see very often: a group of male inmates sitting around tables full of colorful yarn. The group of Kyle Correctional Center inmates are actually crocheting stuffed animals for kids who may not have a toy sitting under their Christmas tree this year.
The inmates teamed up with the Kyle Police Department the week before Christmas and donated 50 stuffed animals to their Blue Santa program. The correctional center only started the program one month ago.
"A lot of people snickered that I was bringing in a crochet project to a men's institution," said Kyle Correctional Center Warden Deanna Branham.
But what those people didn't know was how successful the program would be. Branham says dozens of inmates have opted to be a part of the program, and seem to be learning valuable lessons. Because the program has become so popular, the inmates will continue making the stuffed animals through the holiday season and into next year.
"These guys are six months from going home, so it's important that we teach them that community service is a vital part of being a member of society," said Branham.
Every inmate at the facility struggled in one way or another with drugs in the past. "I was selling meth and stuff and it was a lifestyle I regret, you know I lost everything," said inmate Mike Ramos.
Ramos says that crocheting helps him focus on his future. "I really start reflecting on what I need to be doing and why I shouldn't be here and where I should be."
Each inmate only had a few short lessons before they began making their animals. Together, they go over the pattern and work stitch-by-stitch to make pandas, monkeys and lions. "I hope whoever does get these animals, they cling to them," said inmate Michael Elias. "These are definitely for the kids, not for our entertainment."
"I hope whoever does get these animals, they cling to them," said inmate Michael Elias as he holds his newest creation: a blue bear. "These are definitely for the kids, not for our entertainment."
As a perk, after every 10 animals created by an inmate, they are able to keep one and send to a family member. For some, it's the first Christmas gift, besides a letter, that they have been able to give in many years.
"I made my mom a stinky little bear... and I stuffed him in a little box, it was a little tiny box and I stuffed him in there… I hope she gets," said a teary-eyed Louis Wendell.
After Christmas, the facility will donate to other organizations in need.
The yarn used for their projects is all donated. If you would like to donate to their cause you can do so by dropping off the yarn at their facility at 23001 I-35 in Kyle.
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