TAFT, Okla. – Often times the greatest gift is just being present.
“Just showing up. Just showing up. Sometimes it’s just a smile,” volunteer Mary Painter said.
Mary Painter has been showing up nearly 2 decades. She’s a loyal volunteer at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, teaching on difficult topics like sexual abuse and abortion.
Painter said, “I believe every time I teach a class God shows me something else. My expertise is to offer some hope.”
It’s the little things, like strengthening the prison library.
“The books were worn out, so I started bringing my own books to add to the library,” Painter said.
Whatever the need, Mary Painter is usually the first to step up. When hundreds of women became eligible for early release, Mary launched a social media campaign.
“There was a large need following the November commutation. So, I put out a Facebook saying hey friends, this is what we need, “Painter said. “Within two days I had an SUV filled with donated coats and shoes, monetary donations. We had more than enough to meet all the needs.”
Her impact is felt deeply.
“She doesn’t look at our crime.” Said inmate Tisha Abbe. “You can see the compassion in her heart. She wants to see us grow.”
And once a year, Mary and a cavalry of church family descend on the prison for a full day of unconditional love.
“She’s a breath of fresh air. It really lifts our spirits up,” inmate Cathy Baker said.
Mary Painter discovered just how special during a rain soaked weekend.
“The inmate will never forget one of her friends running back to the dorm and the hamburger fell off her plate. The volunteer saw it and ran to the dorm to take a fresh burger to her, Painter said. “That gesture meant so much. They stood in their dorms and watched us. There was not a dry thread on anyone – or a dry eye.”
This good Samaritan pledges to serve the women of Eddie Warrior, in any way, as long as she is needed.
“I think the DOC is better because of the volunteers,” Painter said.