By Marcus Henderson
By the end of 2016, San Quentin prisoners and their respective activities groups raised $32,629 in donations for many charitable nonprofit organizations through food sales.
Project Avary, a Bay Area organization that provides numerous programs such as summer camps, teen leadership and family unity programs for children of incarcerated parents, was one of the agencies receiving a donation.
“We are all in this together,” Zachary Whelan, Project Avary Executive Director, said. “To make a better life for the kids, it warms our hearts, and I speak for the whole organization that you guys are doing your part.”
“I always speak highly about the men at San Quentin, Solano and Avenal that raise money for the kids; it’s incredible.”
The San Quentin Financial Literacy Group held a Panda Express Chinese Kitchen food sale that raised $829 for Project Avary.
Hundreds of incarcerated men filled the Lower Yard to pick up beef and broccoli platters, orange chicken or a vegetable platter at $10.50 each, with 70 percent of the profits going to charity and 30 percent to the warden’s charity of choice.
Some of the men, who make as little as $0.08 an hour on a prison labor job, had to save for months to make a purchase, “It’s always good to purchase food from the outside,” said Elijah Fejeran. “But it’s even better when you can give back to the community, especially the kids, it can give them an advantage we didn’t have.”
Inmate Robert Lee added, “I love that our money is going where it should be going. It makes the food sale that much more enjoyable, instead of giving to some unknown place. Knowing it’s for kids of incarcerated parents makes us feel useful…I think if we had better prices and a variety of other stuff to buy, more money could have been raised. Regardless, it still put us on track to give back to our community.”
The Financial Literacy Program teaches incarcerated men financial empowerment and responsibilities. The Financial Empowerment Emotional Literacy (FEEL) philosophy is built around money management, saving, borrowing, cost control, and diversification.
“This is just a small token that could be made,” Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll, Financial Literacy Group Chairman, said. “The goal is to help fund the many programs they have for the kids.”
“The lesson for us is our knowledge to affect change, through the better management of our own finances, so we can give back and donate,” Carroll added.
The Special Olympics is another cause that staff and inmates donate to statewide. San Quentin youth offenders program, Kid CAT, raised money and held a hygiene drive for Huckleberry Youth, a multi-service center in San Francisco.
Exploring Leadership and Improving Transitional Effectiveness (ELITE) raised funds in support of the Global Sojourns Giving Circle, a charity that aids education and empowerment of girls in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Funds also were raised for the Rahima Foundation, a safe house and transitional services provider for battered women.
The Veterans Group of San Quentin held a Christmas toy drive with Toy for Tots.