Community Action, Correctional Facility forge strong partnership

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Staff at Community Action of Orleans & Genesee and leaders of the Albion Correctional Facility gathered for a photo by the prison in Albion. The group includes, from left: Andy Ebbs, facilities manager for Community Action; Annette Finch, community services director for Community Action; Sheryl Zenzen, superintendent of Albion Correctional Facility; Duane Artus, deputy superintendent of administration for ACF; Patricia Assel, deputy superintendent of programs; Tom Colton, vocational supervisor; and Mike O’Connor, horticulture instructor.

ALBION – For more than a decade inmates at the Albion Correctional Facility have been growing vegetables and donating them to local food pantries.

In the peak harvest season in the summer, the inmates have about 200 to 300 pounds a week of vegetables, which may include cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, broccoli and cabbage.

The produce is available beginning in June with squash and lasts until November with broccoli and cabbage. Soon they will work on making wreaths for Christmas and the holidays.

About 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of produce are given to Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, which distributes it to food pantries in Albion, Medina and Holley. The steady source of fresh vegetables fills a need for the pantries in the summer and fall.

“It’s really a godsend because it helps so many people,” said Annette Finch, community services director for Community Action.

There are 40 inmates that work in the horticulture program, growing vegetables and flowers. Some of those flowers have been donated to the downtown business district in Albion.

“They’re doing things for others, which helps them move forward in their own lives,” said Sheryl Zenzen, superintendent of the Albion Correctional Facility, which has about 1,000 female inmates.

Inmates and correctional facility staff last month also walked a 5K on the prison grounds and raised $1,400 for a domestic violence program.

The staff also are active in donating to the United Way and other charities through SEFA, the State Employees Federated Appeal.

Zenzen said Community Action has been a strong partner for the facility, providing inmates with a chance to learn job skills in an office setting, the Main Street Store and at special events.

Those skills will help the inmates find and keep jobs when they are released from prison, Zenzen said.