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TELL CITY - A woman representing the Use What You've Got Prison Ministry made a pitch at a regular Perry County commissioners meeting Oct. 22 for a transportation service the group provides for families of prisoners.
Cecelia Whitfield told the county leaders her own son went to prison in 1998, "and we found that a lot of families need transportation."
Many have lost the financial support once provided by now-incarcerated male family members, she pointed out, adding to the difficulty of making long and expensive drives to visit them. Many people don't realize family members - most often wives, mothers and children - are hidden victims of the crimes that result in prison time.
The ministry offers monthly transportation to 13 Indiana prisons, and will add up to five more when a sufficient number of riders sign up.
"We're trying to branch out to different counties," Whitfield said. "We're in the process of buying a 25-passenger bus with a DVD player so we can help educate families during their several-hour trips."
Members of the nonprofit ministry provide support after prisoners' release, she explained. "We're partnering with Ivy Tech, Ball State and Butler University to put films together to help break the generational revolving door."
"We also do toy and clothing giveaways for our riders, to tell them 'thank you' and 'we love and appreciate you,' " she added.
Based in Indianapolis, Use What You've Got also has needs, according to a brochure Whitfield distributed to the commissioners. They include mentors for children, commercially licensed drivers, donations of children's clothes and toys, and support groups that can help families during prison time and prisoners upon their release.
More information can be obtained through the group's Web site, www.usewhatyouvegotministry.org, by calling (317) 924-4124 or writing to P.O. Box 1521, Indianapolis IN 46206-1521.