By Wesley Eisiminger
More than 300 people packed the San Quentin Protestant Chapel for a Christmas season banquet to honor some 50 volunteers from 16 churches who support the prisoners during the year.
The annual banquet, held Dec. 12, featured a feast of turkey and chicken, potato salad, macaroni salad, pizza, cake and coffee.
Chaplain Mardi Jackson presented certificates of appreciation to the volunteer individuals and groups including McGlothen Temple, Greater Love, Jeff Williams, New Faith Cathedral, Victory Outreach, Cornerstone, Hillside Covenant, Man to Man Ministries, Community Presbyterian Church, The Well, Grace and Mercy, Allen Temple, One Accord Ministries, Wings of Love, Tiburon Baptist Church, Maranatha, and Christ Bible Church.
San Quentin News adviser John Eagan, who is also a member of Tiburon Baptist Church, received the certificate on behalf of his church.
Eagan asked all of the volunteers to stand up and asked the inmates, “Why are they here?” The inmates shouted, “They love us!”
“That’s true,” Eagan responded, “but the real reason they come in here is because they believe they make a positive difference in your lives. What they have also learned is that you make a positive change in their lives.”
Three of the churches, Victory Outreach, Cornerstone and Maranatha hold Bible study classes for inmates and also offer residential housing after prisoners are returned to their communities. In addition, some of these churches come inside the prison and to the cell-blocks to sing Christmas carols.
Before the Christmas banquet began all of the Christian workers formed a circle and held hands as Chris Harris said a prayer.
The chapel choir led the crowd with holiday music. The audience came alive and began to sing along to Praise the Lord.
Tim Homes said he came to San Quentin five months ago from Wasco State Prison.
“I am very glad to be able to come to San Quentin. The Garden Protestant Chapel welcomed me with a warm heart. I am proud to be part of this event,” Homes said.
Lawrence Pela commented, “I have never seen anything like this at the other prisons I’ve been at. There are so many programs here. At most, other prisons I’ve been at, maybe 10 at most.”
Eagan said, “This is a perfect example of where a community and the San Quentin prisoners come together as friends and for peace. This is one of the few places I will go in San Quentin and see prisoners smiling.”
Chaplain Jackson also gave special thanks to volunteers Kathleen Jackson and Mike Bonnel for their service.
She also thanked Bishop Leon Ralph of the Legacy Fund for his commitment and financial support of the ministry at San Quentin.
Opening prayer was by Minis Per Moody; benediction was given by Elder Derrick Holloway.