Inmates Turn Prison Into Toy Workshop for Needy Kids

river junction secret santaHere's something that'll grow the Grinch's heart three sizes bigger: Prison inmates in Florida are busy as Santa's elves building scooters and restoring bikes for children in need. At the River Junction work camp, inmates work year-round making and restoring toys for a secret Santa program. It's the last thing you'd picture when you imagine prison life -- but I think it's one of the sweetest things I've heard this holiday season.

This doesn't just mean new toys for less-fortunate kids. It also means prison inmates doing something worthwhile as they're doing time. It's a beautiful way to pay your debt to society. And I have to think it must have a positive effect on the inmates.


And these guys are doing beautiful work. You'll see in the video -- that scooter is going to be a sweet ride for some little kid, obviously restored with love. Its maker, Lin Marbra, says it's similar to a scooter he once bought for his own son, who he hasn't seen in five years. It breaks my heart to hear about this father spending another Christmas without his family. You can feel Lin's regret -- but also his joy and relief at being able to still make a positive difference for someone.

In a way, it reminds me of the one that I got for my son, and it just brings me joy that I’m repairing it for a kid out there somewhere who will just be able to enjoy it. It just makes me feel good because even though I’m not able to be out there with him -- get him things like that -- I can do it for another kid. And hopefully, he’ll be able to enjoy it.

I know it's hard, sometimes, to feel compassion for prison inmates. A lot of people are in prison for very good reasons. They're there because they made unwise choices that -- in many cases -- made this world a more dangerous place to live. But I think a lot of people who end up in prison deserve the chance to reflect and to change. Just like one bad deed can transform you, one good deed can also transform you for the better.

Who knew Santa's elves wore blue jumpsuits! What does it mean to accept a gift created by a prison inmate? I think it means you're sharing a double gift. These toys represent a tiny bit of redemption for a prisoner's soul. And in a season that's all about forgiveness and good will to all, that's wonderful news.

Inmates build toys for less fortunate:

How would you feel about your child receiving a gift made by a prison inmate? What do you think of this program?

Image via Fox10TV

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