Tenn. inmates build toys to donate to underprivileged children

HICKMAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Inmates in vocational programs at the Turney Center Industrial Prison in Hickman County are using their skills to make toys for underprivileged children.

The inmates have been creating toy cars, rocking horses and more to donate Wednesday to members of the Hickman County Rescue Squad for distribution. They call it Operation: Toys.

“I hope they feel the same thing we felt when making them,” inmate Jeff Dearing said. “There is a lot of joy putting them together and coming up with the ideas.”

Dearing and about 40 other inmates started making the toys in carpentry class in October.

Since then, they have crafted around 200 toys.

“I hope the kids are happy with them and they are pleased,” inmate Oliver George said. “I didn’t think I could do it as good as I have. I’m pretty impressed with it.”

The principal of the vocational programs in the Turney Center got the idea after seeing how well the students were mastering carpentry.

She did research and decided that the Hickman County Rescue Squad would be the right organization to donate the toys to for distribution to underprivileged children.

“I am amazed because they attend school six hours a day, Monday through Friday, and have gotten a lot done,” Principal Rebecca Millay said. “These are a lot of toys and these are really detailed.”

She continued, “So they have worked really hard to get these done on time.”

The rescue squad works with Hickman County churches which will identify families in need and make sure the toys are delivered.

“These toys are going to be a big help to them,” Rescue Squad Chief Tony Warner said. “They want to give back from where they have taken. I appreciate them having us down here today.”

The project also helps the inmates further their training so when they leave prison they have a trade they can use to get a job.

Both the justice and education departments released a study in August 2013 that found inmates who participated in educational programs in prison reduced their chances or returning by more than 40 percent when compared to inmates who did not.

The inmates at the Turney Center will have their safety certification for carpentry when they complete the two courses.

This was the first year for Operation: Toys. Other programs at the Turney Center include Retrieving Independence, which teaches inmates how to train service animals.

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