Our Story: No Dignity
Patty and Ikasha sat at the lunch table with their bright green chef jackets on and their “student” badges around their necks. These are a far cry from the prison uniforms and inmate ID tags they wear at the women’s correctional unit where they spend the rest of their time.
Like thousands of women throughout Ohio, Patty and Ikasha are serving time for crimes they committed. And while they admit to those crimes and will serve their time, they find that a system that is meant to reform them is a system that dehumanizes. “In prison we get called by our last names. There is no dignity.”
Their chef’s coats and student IDs that Patty and Ikasha proudly wear was issued by Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries(LMM) as part of their Chopping for Change program. This program partners with the prison system to teach women cooking skills so that upon reentry they have a career to help them move forward with their lives. But Chopping for Change is not just about cooking. There are therapy sessions to help the women address the trauma in their lives; they are able to earn certificates and even an associate’s degree in culinary art. Perhaps most important, there are family events to help them reconnect with their families in a non-prison environment; “Being with our families here [at LMM] is such a different experience,” reflects Patty. “Here we are Patty and Ikasha.”
Patty and Ikasha sit confidently at the table with members of the LMM staff. They tell their stories with a reflective maturity. And they unabashedly point to Chopping for Change. “It is wonderful to be seen not as an inmate,” declares Patty. “The dignity and respect that this program gives is invaluable; it gives you faith, gratitude, a future, a purpose. Ikasha reflects on how the program has changed her life attitude,“ This program humbled me. I am sure that doors will now open to me.”
“There is no other program like this”[in the prison system], says Mary. She talks about how Chopping for Change and the people at LMM trust her and the other women. Even more, she and Ikasha have been inspired to give back to their community. They often go into the clothes closet at LMM where there are professional and street clothes to help women who are re-entering society. “It is something to give a woman her first pair of jeans in 6 years,” says Patty with a look of profound grace in her eyes.
Today we delivered a check to LMM on behalf of the Northeastern Ohio Synod. On behalf of you. Your gift to LMM helps to open the future to Patty and Ikasha and other women like them. Your gift help restore the dignity of life to people that society has locked away. You gift helps people regain their names.