Modern feeding of the 5,000 by TBM benefits correctional officers

Bill McDowell (left) from Walnut Creek Baptist Church in Diana and R.L. Barnard from First Baptist Church in Duncanville and Gary Hegler from University Baptist Church in Houston serve meals to correctional officers at the Ellis Unit. (PHOTO / Ken Camp)

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HUNTSVILLE—When Texas Baptist Men set out to cook meals for correctional officers at Huntsville-area prisons, feeding the 5,000 required considerably more than the biblical five loaves and two fishes—closer to 1,500 pounds of chicken and 10,000 tortillas.

tbm wynne night serve425Volunteers (left to right) Phil Bradberry from Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Teresa McDaniel from Bakersfield, Calif., and Denise Terry from First Baptist Church in Garland serve correctional officers on the night shift at the Wynne Unit. (PHOTO / Ken Camp)As part of national Correctional Officers Week, two-dozen TBM disaster relief volunteers cooked chicken fajitas outside First Baptist Church in Huntsville, and about 80 volunteers served them to personnel at 11 Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons, as well as the TDCJ Training Academy and a local hospital.

“Last year, we cooked for the officers at one unit. They couldn’t believe we were willing to serve so many facilities this year,” said Ray Gann of Whitesboro, director of the state food-service unit.

Requests for Bibles exceeded supply

In all, the TBM volunteers provided 5,250 meals, gave away about 10,000 pieces of candy and distributed more than 2,700 Bibles. In fact, demand for the Bibles exceeded the available supply.

tbm wynne alvarado425Ed Alvarado from First Baptist Church in Donna visits with a correctional officer at the Wynne Unit after she accepts a Bible. (PHOTO / Ken Camp)“To me, that represents spiritual hunger,” said Don Gibson, TBM executive director. “Some of the officers wanted Bibles to take home to their children or to a husband or wife.”

Warden Kelly Strong at the Wynne Unit spoke to officers on the night shift at her facility, explaining to them the TBM volunteers wanted to show appreciation for their service.

“You don’t get a lot of positive attention,” she said. “But you are brave and hard-working. You keep us safe at night so we can sleep—so people all over this state can sleep.”

About 450 uniformed security personnel at the Wynne Unit oversee an inmate population of 2,300 inside the prison and another 300 at the trustee camp. 

“They are people, just like anybody else,” an assistant warden at the Wynne Unit said. “It’s just that if they make a mistake at work, it’s a little more serious.”

tbm wynne nightshift425A correctional officer on the night shift at the Wynne Unit reads a Bible she received from Texas Baptist Men volunteers. (PHOTO / Ken Camp)Betty Moore from First Baptist Church in San Angelo set up a tent outside the C.A. Holliday Transfer Facility to serve correctional officers, but the volunteers struggled with high winds and rain.

“So, they invited us to come on inside to serve the second shift,” she said. “They just couldn’t believe what we’re doing. We just told them we wanted to help and to serve the Lord.”

John Hooser from First Baptist Church of Castle Hills in Azle served meals at the Ferguson Unit. He recalled asking one correctional officer, who showed up in the serving line with a scowl on his face, “How are you?”

“I’m here,” the officer replied gruffly.

tbm tello ellis425Mike Tello from First Baptist Church in Weslaco and Juan Alvarado from First Baptist Church in Donna offer a Bible and encouragement to a correctional officer at the Ellis Unit. (PHOTO / Ken Camp)Hooser told him how much the volunteers appreciate his service and thanked him for the important work he does. 

“When he left, his whole mood had changed,” Hooser said. “He was smiling and thanking us. And he took a Bible with him. 

“They all seemed to appreciate knowing we care about them. We just wanted to let them know: ‘We haven’t forgotten about you. We appreciate you.’”

One volunteer, Teresa McDaniel, journeyed from Bakersfield, Calif., to be part of the event. She first learned about TBM when a crew served meals during Time to Revive, a multifaceted interdenominational evangelistic campaign in her area.

“I saw their love for Christ and the love they showed to everyone, and I said, ‘How can I be a part?” she said. She subsequently received disaster relief training and has worked with TBM on other assignments.

McDaniel served 28 years as a professional in the criminal justice system, both as a correctional officer and parole officer, after 13 years in the U.S. Army, so she particularly wanted to be a part of the project in Huntsville.

“God prepared my heart for the battlefield now,” she said.

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