COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The holidays have been different this year, and for many, the feeling of isolation can be overwhelming. That is especially true for the prison population that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
At Pickaway Correctional Institution, the pandemic has halted many of the programs for the men, including in-person visits from Harmony Project volunteers.
“We started meeting in person pre-COVID with a group of about 30 men out at PCI. Singing with them developing relationships, bonds, friendships and then as COVID hit. We had to find a way to kind of keep that program going,” said David Brown, Harmony Project founder.
In an effort to recapture what they had pre-COVID-19, David asked the men what he could do to lift their spirits. The men suggested singing to children at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Harmony dropped off Santa hats for the men and recorded the Christmas carols.
Immediately their demeanor changed and they found joy.
“These grown men, you know, who have every reason to be depressed isolated and to withdraw, decided to let go of their own stuff and give for someone else,” said Brown. “So once we saw that happen, we were like, why can’t we spread some more joy throughout the rest of the prison in some way.”
They asked permission to bring in Christmas trees for the men to decorate. Thanks to a partnership with Big Lots, a truckload of trees and ornaments were dropped off at PCI. The men once again had their spirits lifted.
Deputy Warden Rochelle Moore shared how much it meant to them.
“As I walked through the institution, the staff was saying to me, Miss Moore, these guys love these trees. … And the trees are so beautiful. You can tell they really spent a lot of time on them.”
Spreading joy and hope with a symbol of the season.