A neighbor many have never met
As you make the ceremonial drive home from work, you will likely take the same path day after day. You will drive by the same gas station, turn down the same side street, and pass the same impeccably kept yard. As you turn onto your street, you will inevitably be able to connect a face with each of your neighbor’s homes. You may know some of them by name, and others by association; the guy who likes to mow his lawn at ten o’clock at night, the lady with the black cat, or the couple that wave each time they see you drive past. But, for each neighbor you drive past, there are hundreds that many of us drive by every day that we have never met.
Nestled among the trees and perched on a hill on the outskirts of Eagle River is a neighbor that sits on 62.7 acres and is home to nearly 400 people. The Hiland Correctional Center is Alaska’s facility to house female inmates. The center houses females serving sentences for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to felonies, as well as women awaiting trial.
When most of us think of service, the thought of a prison would never enter our mind. It is clear the people in this institution have been held accountable for their actions. It is also clear many volunteers have found, within this population, the opportunity to make a real difference; not only in the life of the inmate, but to the community as well. In addition to many faith organizations, S.T.A.R., A.W.A.I.C., and AmeriCorp are among the many non-profits that routinely go into the prison to provide opportunities to inmates to change the path they are on.
A few years ago, a member of the Sleeping Lady Lions club noticed a woman waiting for the bus on a cold winter day, dressed only in jeans and a t-shirt. When the Lion inquired about the situation, there was a sobering realization: the women are discharged in whatever town they were arrested in, and some are dropped off at the local bus stop. Now, if an inmate is released in June, no problem. But if they are released in January, it could be an issue.
Born through the compassion of one, grew the Sleeping Lady Lions winter coat collection. The Lions Club collects winter coats and drops them off at the correctional facility, thereby providing the staff of the prison the ability to give inmates being discharged something small to ease the transition back into the community. As we think about our neighbors, we realize that there are so many differences between us. But the thing that binds us is our community, and our spirit of humanity. The Sleeping Lady Lions welcome all who would like to donate winter coats to drop them off the 1st or 3rd Monday of each month at the Lions Club (at Lions Park) between 7 and 8 p.m., or call Amy at 301-9177 and we will arrange to pick them up.
For more information on Lions visit www.sleepingladylions.org.