Mothers going through a prenatal class at the People's Health Clinic were given some unique gifts last week: knit blankets, booties and hats made by inmates at the Summit County Jail.
According to Summit County Sheriff's Capt. Justin Martinez, who helped coordinate the program, the idea arose in 2010 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided it wanted to come into the jail to help provide programs for women. The LDS Church provides 100 percent of the materials and training in teaching the inmates how to knit.
"It introduces the inmates to a new skill and provides them with something to do while they're incarcerated," Martinez said. "It also introduces them to successful women in the community that come into the jail and want to teach them something."
Yuridia Pantaleon, a mother enrolled in the clinic's prenatal class, was very grateful to the inmates for providing them with the hand-made items.
"I feel special because there are people who are concerned about the babies," Pantaleon said.
Marlen Nava, another mother in the prenatal class, said to the inmates, "Thank you very much for helping to take care of the babies."
Fanny Vernal, the Bicultural Outreach Worker with the People's Health Clinic, helps out with the prenatal classes.
"We have to teach the pregnant women how to take care of their babies. We teach them good habits," Vernal said.
Mothers enrolled in the program go through seven classes, and Vernal said that at the end, each mother receives a basket donated by Temple Har Shalom.
There is also another program where, once the mothers complete it they enter a drawing to win a child's car seat. People's Health Clinic Executive Director Nann Worel says this is because every time someone is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in Summit County they have to donate a car seat to a patient at the clinic.
Martinez is glad that those who are in the unfortunate position of being incarcerated can gain valuable skills while in jail.
"[The inmates] have never learned how to knit before and when they're done knitting and they've created a baby hat or a blanket, they really feel that they've accomplished something and know that they've given back to the community," Martinez said.
Martinez and Worel both wanted to thank the inmates for the work that they have done. Martinez added that the inmates plan on knitting more and bringing in additional shipments of knitted hats, boots and blankets in the future.
"I would say to them, 'You have no idea the gift you've given," Worel said.
"Thank you for your contribution," Martinez said. "We appreciate what you're doing and your willingness to learn a skill and to take that skill and give something back to the community."
Worel also emphasized the important role that the People's Health Clinic plays in the community.
"We're the safety net so when people don't have access to care elsewhere we're here to make sure [they receive that care], with our prenatal services especially," Worel said. "Prenatal care is so important to bringing healthy babies into the world."
Pantaleon and Nava were both appreciative of the clinic's services as well.
"The People's Health Clinic is a great help because they take care of us," Pantaleon said.