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Inmates discover purpose by building unique children's toys

Friday, May 03, 2019

LEXINGTON, Okla --Big things often have small beginnings. What began as a block of wood and some ingenuity, matured into this prison ministry. Inmate Freddie Elrod said, “We have a lot of guys who are wood workers who know what they are doing. They take the wood, manipulate it and make them into these beautiful works of art.” 

The art is actually children’s motorcycle rockers. According to Elrod, “We have a leather worker who does the seat for us. We have three different painters who do all the painting for us. Four guys do the machine work. A lot of blood sweat and tears went into every one. I can vouch for the splinters.” 

The “Oklahoma Lifers Association” is a group of men who make the most of their time behind the wire. 

They’ve handcrafted dozens of rockers and donated them to local schools and churches. Some have been auctioned off to raise money for food banks and children’s charities. 

Joseph Harp Correctional Officer Damon Parsons serves as their sponsor and community liaison. He said, “Positive influence, that’s the main thing for me. I like to make sure they know I’m here if they need to talk to me. They can find me on the yard anywhere. 8 or 9 guys who liked how I treated them with respect. I understand they are human beings and they asked me to be their sponsor. I feel honored, the short time here I can make an impact."

The Lifers Association hopes to have a greater impact this year by identifying even more worthy causes. 

For them, purpose is more important than money or accolades. They give with joy and joy is their reward. Elrod said, “We have bunches of thank you letters. They are so grateful. Some are so heartwarming.” 

Sometimes, we underestimate the influence of little things. According to Elrod, “Something as simple as a piece of wood with shiny paint can have that kind of impact on someone like that and bring that much joy. So much negative, they are doing positive now. It’s an awesome feeling, it really is.” 

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