Patrick Keter, an immigrant from Kenya, has just moved into a new apartment, complete with furniture. The furniture came from the Central Ohio Furniture Bank and inmates at the Marion Correctional Institute.
He opened a drawer in a new dresser and beamed. "I don't know the word to describe the happiness I had," he said.
For the last nine months, prisoners have built chests of drawers with patterns and raw materials from the Sauder Company. They have turned out 1,200 dressers this year for the furniture bank. The shop is run by Robert Stark. He formerly ran a similar shop here, one that made furniture for state offices. He made sure that each man learned all segments of the job.
"After they've worked at a station, so long, we transfer them to another, and then that way we can cross-train all the way through, so that at any given time we can pull an inmate from one job, put him on another, " Stark said.
Thirty men volunteered to work in this shop regularly, without pay. Another 40-50 remained on the waiting list. One worker is Kelly Lee Parsons. He has served time for aggravated robbery and aggravated murder since 1990.
"About four years ago my parents house burnt down. And it was people like the Furniture Bank who helped them with furniture and what not, to get back. And it's another way to give back to the community, " Parsons said.
It is also a way to learn a trade. Parsons hoped that what he has learned here will help when he comes up for parole in six years.
"Because of this and other opportunities, I have been offered a job at a place called The Furniture Store in Wapakoneta, Ohio," Parsons said.
"If you have a job, you're a lot less likely to come to prison," Stark added.
The inmates soon may make bed frames as well, to help immigrants, victims of fires and domestic violence, and people like Keter.
"It's a blessing. It's just a blessing to be the one having that," Keter said.
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