JTVCC employees donate food assistance to local families impacted by COVID

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

In May, an employee-led donation drive at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center collected $3,300 to provide a helping hand to Smyrna-area families who are struggling to keep food on the table in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea, according to organizers, came out of the 2017 inmate uprising that killed Lt. Steven R. Floyd Sr.

"The staff at James T. Vaughn have always remembered the big and small tokens of support we received from our neighbors in Smyrna following that tragedy, from meal donations dropped off at the prison to simple messages of encouragement," said Sgt. Ralph Bailey, donation drive organizer and 30-year DOC veteran. "That outpouring really lifted our spirits when we needed it and we have been on the lookout for an opportunity to pay that generosity forward. When we saw how the COVID pandemic was impacting our hard-working neighbors through no fault of their own, we knew this was our time to get together and give back."

In April, Bailey enlisted the support of like-minded officers including Cpl. Patricia Villarreal, Lt. Nathan Atherholt, Cpl. KZenneth Hammond, Cpl. Delano Smith, Sgt. Justin Perkins and others, and the JTVCC COVID Relief Fund was up and running. Champions of the donation drive across the facility made personal pitches to their fellow security and administrative staff, and one even put up a personal fundraising match challenge. The response was overwhelming and the initial goal of $300 was broken within a day. Special recognition goes to members of the prison's Security Housing Unit team for going above the call and raising $2,300. Organizers received so many donations over two weeks they ran out of donation receipts. In total, $3,300 was raised from JTVCC employees.

JTVCC COVID Relief Fund organizers presented 11 $300 grocery store gift cards to Smyrna Police Chief Torrie James, whose department worked collaboratively with Smyrna town leaders to distribute the cards to residents in need. Each gift card was intended to help meet the basic food needs of a family for a month.

“Thank you to the men and women of James T. Vaughn Correctional Center for their generous donation to help families in our community who are struggling during this pandemic," said James. "We are humbled by this gesture and will make sure that the funds raised go directly to families in need here in Smyrna. JTVCC has always been very supportive of our department, and I really value the working relationship between our organizations.”

"Our correctional officers and employees are performing the toughest jobs in state government with excellence and determination, and that means even more as we battle the threat of COVID," said Department of Correction Commissioner Claire DeMatteis. "Even with the challenges and stress they and their families are experiencing, this donation shows that they also have incredibly big hearts. I am so proud of our employees at James. T. Vaughn Correctional Center whose generosity towards the community demonstrates that we are all in this together."

For more, visit doc.delaware.gov.