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Inmates to cook turkeys for homeless in Baltimore

November 11, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Bea Gaddy's massive Thanksgiving feeding program didn't end with her death four years ago, thanks to the continuing work of her daughter, dedicated volunteers and staff, and the culinary efforts of Maryland Correctional Enterprises inmates.

On Thursday, more than 800 frozen turkeys were delivered to the MCE kitchens on the grounds of Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown. The Shady Brook Farms turkeys had been donated by the Bea Gaddy Family Center in Baltimore, which organizes a dinner for the homeless every year.

Once those turkeys are thawed, they will be deboned and cooked in large smokers, according to Greg Haupt, regional manager of MCE, the prison industry arm of the Maryland Division of Correction. MCE formerly was State Use Industries.

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"The fact that they cook these turkeys for us is a big benefit," said Cynthia Brooks, executive director of the Bea Gaddy Family Center, which was founded by her mother. "This way, there is no cost to us."

Brooks, who has worked at the center for 10 years, said 90,000 pounds of turkey will help provide 40,000 meals on Thanksgiving Day.

"The turkey is so tasty, too," Brooks said, raving about the cooking process at MCE. "They trump any restaurant in the state."

Since 1997, the MCE meat plant has worked with Gaddy and her program. The late Baltimore councilwoman and champion of the poor was known throughout the state for her compassion, fighting on behalf of the homeless and those who have fallen on hard times.

Traveling with Brooks to Washington County from the center were Connie Bass, a director, and Norma Thompson, food coordinator.

"I used to coordinate for Bea and now, for her daughter," Thompson said of her 24 years at the center.

Bass, who also started at the center in 1981, spoke highly of Gaddy and her efforts.

"She taught us well," Bass said.

All three women said they came to thank the inmates personally for their efforts to help feed the hungry.

"We see some of the same faces each year," Brooks said.

"I've been here seven years and I like giving back to the community," said Warren Holley, an inmate helping to unload the turkeys. "Miss Bea gave of herself."

Helping Holley was fellow inmate Calvin McNeill, who said he has been involved with the project for several years.

"This is something positive and wonderful," he said of Gaddy's dream. "She gives food to people who need it."

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