prisoners Rikers Island blogA group of prisoners at New York City’s Rikers Island jail were let out for a day so they could deliver 700 Thanksgiving meals to the needy.

The men cooked up the hundreds of turkey dinners in a jail kitchen for delivery to two churches, according to an AP report.

That’s not the only example this month of Riker’s prison helping New Yorkers in need. A New York Times story today tells how, after Hurricane Sandy tore through nearby neighborhoods, the island inmates did 6,600 pounds of laundry for people in emergency shelters.

The jail also came to the rescue of neighborhoods in the dark, supplying generators and the fuel needed to run them.

“There are plenty of unsung heroes in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but the story of how those at New York’s least desirable address lent their muscle and might is perhaps among the most compelling.”

The Thanksgiving chefs this week are Riker’s men who participate in the Osborne Association Fresh Start program – a program that trains convicts in culinary arts, computer literacy and life skills. The food trainees prepared the 700 Thanksgiving meals in an industrial sized kitchen at Rikers Island on Tuesday. The men said it has been “an honor” and “a really good feeling” to cook for those who are in need.

Father Tom Synan from Church of the Heavenly Rest (whose back is in the photo above) called the food a “blessing.” He personally thanked each of the participants for the work they did to make this Thanksgiving special for everyone who will dine at the church, including seniors, the homeless, and people who would otherwise spend the holiday alone.

The Osborne Association designed Fresh Start as a holistic approach to re-entry that focuses on the family as a key ingredient of long-term success. Incarcerated men receive training and guidance – not just in culinary arts – but in several areas like parenting, goal setting, and relapse prevention that help motivate participants to positively reconnect with their families and the community when they return home. They also receive follow-up support for a full year following their release from jail. Graduates use their new skills to become prep cooks, catering assistants, and counselors at substance abuse programs. These opportunities eliminate the feelings of hopelessness that too frequently arise once individuals return home from prison or jail. (

(READ the full NY Times story: Jailed and Jailers Pitched In Help After Storm)

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