To visit the imprisoned is one of the seven corporal works of mercy. Last August, the Knights of Columbus in Lakeway, Texas, combined that with another corporal work of mercy: they also fed the hungry.
On a fine sunny Saturday, members of St. Joseph of Arimathea Council 14025 arrived in force to provide a barbecue cookout on family visitation day at the Giddings State School, a juvenile detention facility operated by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD). More than 500 meals were served to the students, their family members, and the school’s staff throughout the day.
“The Family Day event at state schools is an occasion when family members and volunteer mentors get to spend the day and interact with the incarcerated students,” explained Lee Malkowski, a Knight of the council.
But the event was special for another reason, he added.
“In fact, it was the first time that any persons or organization had provided a meal of this quality to all the students, families and staff at the facility,” Malkowski said. “For most if not all of the students, it was the first time that they have had the opportunity to enjoy a quality barbecue meal since they’ve been incarcerated; for some, it was the first time ever.”
Giddings is one of the state's five youth lockups. It is also the one where, state Juvenile Justice Department officials say, the most violent youth offenders are incarcerated. More than 61 percent of the 220 youths housed at Giddings have committed violent crimes, according to a recent Houston Chronicle report. Most are 17 or 18 years old, which makes them adults under present Texas law. The facility also has a long history of violence, disruptions and gang activity as well as staffing and supervision issues.
The council has an ongoing ministry of visiting the young prisoners at Giddings. Often they are accompanied by Father Nock Russell, pastor of St. John Parish in Fayetteville, or other priests of the area.
While the August barbecue “took a lot of work and the coordinated efforts of many, the event was very successful and appreciated by all at the school, especially the students and the school’s staff,” Malkowski said. “It was a high-profile event that demonstrated our Church’s support and our Knights of Columbus council’s giving to the underprivileged youth and families of the Giddings State School Community.”
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