AUBURN, Mass. – The Auburn Senior Center has an autumn feel to it now thanks to a gift dropped off Friday morning by Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.
Evangelidis delivered massive pumpkins and corn stalks grown by the new Inmate Agricultural Training Program at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction.
“We’re happy to come out here anytime we can – you can’t walk into a friendlier, happier place than the Auburn Senior Center,” Evangelidis said. “Pumpkins and stalks add a lot to make it more seasonal and help spruce it up. And if you don’t enjoy this part of being sheriff, you should be doing a different job.”
Cheryl Westerman, acting director of the Senior Center, said the pumpkins “came in perfect time for the Halloween party.”
The sheriff’s farming program uses a 10-acre parcel of Sheriff's Office land that was appropriated by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and is tended to during the week by inmate labor.
The crops – which are all organic – consist of sweet corn, zucchini, summer squash, acorn squash and pumpkins. This year’s harvest has been providing inmates with an alternative to the usual canned vegetables, at a savings of more than $15,000 in inmate food costs.
The harvest has yielded over 7,000 ears of sweet corn and 9,000 pounds of additional vegetables. Evangelidis recently delivered more than 375 pounds of vegetables to the Worcester County Food Bank in Shrewsbury.
“The inmates benefit from the dignity and self-respect they get from cultivating the earth,” Evangelidis said. “It helps them turn their lives around, and everybody else benefits from it too – the jail budget benefits, the Worcester County Food Banks benefit and now the senior centers are benefiting.
“It’s one of those really great programs where everybody wins, and I wish we had more things like that in government,” Evangelidis added.
Evangelidis also delivered pumpkins and corn stalks at senior centers in Leicester, Leominster and Sutton, among others in Worcester County.