Inmates crochet blankets for orphans in Israel

Brandie Hernandez, left, Eva Humpherys and Janel Haas show off the crocheted items they made for orphans in Israel.

Brandie Hernandez, left, Eva Humpherys and Janel Haas show off the crocheted items they made for orphans in Israel.

By Josh Friesen, jfriesen@journalnet.com

A group of inmates at the South Idaho Correctional Institution in Kuna are making an impact for those in need on the other side of the world.

Brandie Hernandez, from Jerome, and Janel Haas and Eva Humpherys, both of Idaho Falls, are part of a group of women at the jail’s Parole Release Center who are crocheting blankets, caps and booties for Jewish and Palestinian babies at a Catholic orphanage in Jerusalem, Israel.

The yarn was donated by Barbara Freeman, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who also came up with the idea.

The project that encompasses those of a variety of faiths doesn’t just benefit the orphans. It also benefits the women hand-making the items.

“It helps get me out of the negative thinking and the depression,” Haas said. “It’s been really good. I don’t ever want to pick up smoking cigarettes again, and my daughter told me she thought it was just something for my hands to do. Now I have something. I want to continue this.”

The crocheting isn’t just a way for the inmates to pass the time. It’s therapeutic and rehabilitative. And knowing it’s leading to something good keeps the women motivated.

“For the babies, hopefully some of these blankets they’ll end up with when they’re older,” Haas said. “And they’ll know they were made with a lot of love.”

Added Hernandez, “It definitely shows that something positive can come out of us being here.”

The crocheting project began when Freeman, a volunteer who helps with Sunday worship services at the jail, was shown the crochet work done by one of the inmates. At the same time, a member of her ward had asked her church to donate blankets for the tour group to take to the orphanage in Jerusalem.

“I just married the idea with the link between those two things and said, ‘Let’s do this,’” Freeman said. “I thought it would be a good project for the ladies out there in the prison to do.”

That’s when Freeman got in touch with Kathy Bauman, the volunteer and religious activities coordinator at the jail. She immediately got the ball rolling to get the project approved.

“I knew these ladies could do it,” Bauman said. “I issued the yarn to them Friday, and by the time I was back on Monday they were already showing me what they had done. … The creativity is incredible.”

When all was said and done, the inmates had made about 40 blankets, another 20 caps and a handful of booties.

“For me, this is very fulfilling that I got to be able to donate my time toward a good cause, while at the same time learning a trade I’ll be able to have for a lifetime,” Humpherys said.

Haas is counting down the days until her release in early July. When she returns home to Idaho Falls, she wants to make her granddaughter a blanket. She’ll be able to continue improving the crocheting skills she’s learned over the course of the project. But the renewal she’s felt from creating something positive is what’s truly a blessing.

“I’m really excited to have learned so much here,” Haas said. “It’s something I can do to get out of my thoughts and my negative thinking and be positive. … It’s something I’ve learned here and will keep with me forever.”