Volunteers help female inmates year-round with tutoring, gifts ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE


August 23, 1993|By JEAN LESLIE

Most of us think of the men in Patuxent Correctional Institute when we consider prisons. But did you remember that there are 800 women in Maryland Correctional Institute for Women, just down the road from Patuxent Institute?

Bethany United Methodist Church's Prison Ministry remembers by doing little things and big projects all year round: visiting and tutoring the women, many of whom have literacy problems; by providing a Christmas package to each woman (that's 800 gifts!); and by bringing jelly beans at Easter time.

Ellicott City resident Jan Vasilas, one of the volunteers, has come up with a distinctive way to help the women, in conjunction with Muriel Gates of Girl Scouts of Central Maryland.

Last spring, Ms. Gates gave the group a presentation explaining how she had worked to create a Girl Scout troop for the daughters of Maryland Correctional Institute inmates.

A van provided by Girl Scouts picks up the girls and brings them to the prison. Once they are there, mothers and daughters participate in a Girl Scout meeting, where they make crafts and work toward badges.

Not only do the girls get to visit with their mothers, but they also do "fun things." The hope is that such positive experiences will ease the suffering of both mothers and children and combat the ever-present possibility of daughters' following their mother's example.

The Prison Ministry is looking into ways to help the Girl Scout troop. But they're a small group, and they need more people to take on additional commitments.

The group will begin to meet again in September, when they gather one evening a month to plan fund-raising and other activities. They may be your neighbors: Wendell Thompson, Doris Jackson, Hazel Barth, Shirley Merkle, Cliff Gross, Bernice Gary and Jan Vasilas.

"What's it like to volunteer in a prison?" you might ask. It's safe, for one thing. "I'm never afraid," says Jan Vasilas.

There are prison system rules to follow, such as signing in and out, abiding by a dress code and keeping in touch with the Volunteer Coordinator. And the need is great. Jan Vasilas tutors a woman whose only visitor she is.

The greatest need is for more tutors. You don't need to be a professional, nor do you need to be part of the Prison Ministry group.

To help, a volunteer only needs to attend a 12-hour training session offered by Laubach literacy group.

Then, you will be assigned a person to tutor.

If you are interested in helping the Prison Ministry (you don't need to attend the church) or in more information about work with prisoners, call Jan Vasilas at 992-8217.

Congratulations to Ellicott City resident Lori Furletti, who attends Mount De Sales Academy in Catonsville.

She competed in the Maryland State Games Track and Field Competition at Towson State University.

Lori won a bronze medal in the 3,000-meter run.

With fellow Ellicott City resident Katy Domerchi, Lorie prepared by attending a weeklong cross country camp at Penn State University.

When Dunloggin Middle School opens its doors next week (yes, next week, kids!) there will be a new and exciting alternative to the daily announcements.

Dunloggin students will be airing their own television show, which will give news and commentary concerning the school and the wider community.

The TV station is the brainchild of three boys who were eighth-graders last year: Dan Snyder, Matt Homewood and Dan Buckner.

For a Type Three project for their gifted and talented enrichment class, the boys researched the possibility of starting TV broadcasts from their school.

When the idea was presented to Principal Sharf, he liked it. So Mrs. Zimmering, the G/T specialist, helped make the boys' dream come true, by borrowing a little equipment and spending a little money from the magazine sales fund-raiser.

But it was May before the studio was ready to use. At that point, the show was staffed with seventh-graders, for the sake of continuity for the school.

Last year, their show lasted for five minutes, following the format of a basic news show. One story covered in depth was the Howard County Board of Education's smoking ban. They taped the annual visit of the fifth-graders, soon-to-be-sixth graders, and gave a daily weather report.

This year, the students hope to mix in some opinion and create more of a "talk show" format.

Last year's staff included script writers Sara Clive and Amy Straw; sportscasters Skip Gilfellen, Michelle Delrusso and Zach Smith; news anchors Jesse Maizel and Laura Cannon; and "a control room full of boys," including cameramen Steve Irvine and John Heinz, audio people John Rita and Paul Donahue and technical director Dave Picco.

Faculty supervision is provided by media specialist Mrs. Ruos.


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