Grant Builds Links Between Incarcerated and Their Children



DVDs to be mailed to the children of participating inmates.

A grant from the Wyoming Community Foundation is building connections between those incarcerated at Wyoming correctional facilities and their children through the power of books.

The Everyone Has a Story project enables inmates to select books for their children and to record themselves reading the books. Along with the book, the Story Project mails the children a DVD of their mother’s recording. Because DVDs may one day be obsolete, they also provide an unlisted YouTube channel for the children to access. The organization started up earlier this year and is currently working with the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk.

Everyone Has a Story received a $1,340 operating grant from the WYCF to help offset start-up costs for recording equipment and the initial set of book orders for the pilot program this year. So far, 15 different women have participated with 35 children receiving books. The first books and audio recordings went out in April and June. In September, some women participated by video and some by audio. The next recordings go out this month, and those children will receive their books before Christmas.

Everyone Has a Story volunteers (L to R):  Mary Kay Huck, Lisa Barela, Linda Malm, Donna Levengood, and Mirna Ramos.

Mary Kay Huck, founder of Everyone Has a Story, said that the women are very intentional about the books they select for their children, and tell their children why they picked them at the beginning of the recording. Most of the time, it’s because of the message in the book, and sometimes because it was a beloved book of their own when they were growing up. One of the mothers selected the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud for not one, but two of her children. This book’s message is about filling up people’s buckets by showing kindness.

May Kay said one of the mothers calls her four kids every week, sometimes more than once. Even though they hear her voice over the phone, one of her children said, “Mom, it’s so cool to hear you read the book.” Another with three children (ages 11, 12, 13) said her kids “love the books that are sent and they love to read!”

Wyoming State Library Research and Statistics Librarian Thomas Ivie works with the libraries at the state’s five correctional facilities, including the Women’s Center, and encouraged Mary Kay to pursue the grant. Learn more about Everyone Has a Story at everyonehasastoryproject.org.

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