“I feel like they are like family,” Noble Co. inmates celebrate volunteer’s 100th birthday

Local News

ZANESVILLE, Ohio – Most who celebrate their centennial will put their face on a Smucker’s jar but one woman was joined in the prison yard for a song.

Inmates at the Noble County Correctional Center call her Grandma Betty. She’s been working with the organization Forever Dads and attending graduations of the inmates for the past eight years.

“Coming on my birthday is very, very special,” she said.

Warden Timothy Buchanan says this is a rare occasion.

“It’s the unusual that really impacts the soul — and so when you can have 2,500 incarcerated men sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a lady who’s turned 100-years-old. It’s just something that you don’t see,” he said. “It’s something that you couldn’t believe it’s real but we just did it and we just saw it. And it’s really just a testimony to what’s happening at Noble Correctional Institution and the relationship with “Forever Dads.”

The organization Forever Dads helps educate men on how to have better relationships with their children, family and community.

They call her Grandma Betty and she says that she considers the inmates as grandsons. She even makes homemade cookies for their graduation from the Forever Dads program each year.

“I want them to feel close to me like I really am close to them. Not blood wise — I don’t have to be but we’re all children of God and they are and they are my grandchildren in Christ. I feel like they are like family — I treat them, you know, I think about them and I pray for them — I pray for them every day,” she said. “I know their blessed faces when I see ’em — you know — when I come and I see ’em and I know they come — they expect me. They want me to come. One thing, I think they want their cookies.”

The warden says Grandma Betty isn’t just a volunteer.

“She’s a part of us. Grandma Betty is part of our instution. She’s part of our staff. She’s part of our population. And so — it’s just a special person who really adds to the fabric of our facility. We really care about her and she really cares about the people here. We’re very fortunate to have her part of our lives.”

The warden says he hopes this is one of many experiences the inmates will take with them after they’re released.

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