Get on the Bus – Folsom Prison July 26 & 27, 2014
Holy Family sponsored a bus to Folsom Prison carrying children to visit their imprisoned fathers on Friday, July 25th as part of the “Get on the Bus” program. It stopped in Redlands, San Bernardino, South Pasadena, Bakersfield, and Fresno and ended up at Folsom, north of Sacramento, early Saturday morning.
Holy Family Parish provided a meal and entertainment for the families Friday evening before they began their arduous journey to Folsom. Volunteers helping with setting up of the parish hall arrived at 6 pm. Little by little more volunteers arrived. Theresa Shaw prepared a wonderful pasta meal for the families. The bus was scheduled to arrive by 9:00 pm.
Jennifer Harnsberger set up a photo both where the families could have a picture taken to give to their dads. A background insert of central California as well as the Get on the Bus (GOTB) logo framed the pictures. The Girl Scouts had a table ready to assist the children riding the bus with the making of Father’s Day cards.
A volunteer was “assigned” to each family as a “greeter” to make sure they felt welcomed, fed and oriented to the evening’s festivities. The “family greeters” were ready to meet the families as they descended from the bus, direct them to the travel bags (handed out by additional volunteers), and give the families their purple GOTB t-shirts and name-tags. The tables were set and all was ready.
One family drove themselves directly to Holy Family, the others were to arrive by bus from Redlands. Everyone waited for the bus with the rest of the families to arrive at 9 p.m. The arrival time for the bus came and went. The bus finally arrived at 10:15 p.m.! The hungry families ate and enjoyed Holy Family’s hospitality. Just before 11:15 p.m., Cambria led the group in a blessing prayer and they were off. As the Get on the Bus Coordinators, we (Candy and Jay Krueger) accompanied the families on the bus.
The bus was two hours behind schedule by the time it finally left South Pasadena. It took an hour to travel from Gorman to Labec due to road construction. More families were picked up in Bakersfield and Fresno. We were scheduled to arrive at a church (for breakfast before going to the near-by prison) just a few minutes before 7 a.m. Saturday morning. Somehow, despite the delays, we arrived only one minute late! A great, hot breakfast was supplied by the Knights of Columbus of Folsom. We put on our purple Get on the Bus t-shirts, brushed our teeth and hair, washed our faces and were on our way!
There are two prisons in Folsom. The “new” prison (where one family was let off) and the “old” prison where the remainder of our families departed. The “old” prison was the one that we, as well as 2015 Bus Coordinator, Jacquiline Wagner, visited.
The prisons are “cashless”. If you want to purchase food or drinks inside, you need to put a deposit on a card and then add the amount you wanted, much like a Metro Pass. Once inside, the families “found” their dads. There was a large interior room with a play area. This was where dads; had tea with their daughters, had their braided, played Uno or visited the “face- painting” station.
An interesting thing about the “Father’s Day” bus is that you were able to see the entire family united as it is the mothers who typically bring their children to see their fathers. However, on the “Mother’s Day bus” it is caregivers (typically Grandmothers or Aunts) who bring the children to visit the moms, not the fathers of the children.
Volunteers helped by passing out drinks, snacks, and pizza. By about 1 p.m. the families were starting to fade. It had been a long night and you could see the need for sleep on the children’s faces. By 2 p.m. all of the goodbyes were said, a few tears were shed, there were long hugs and promises to “keep-in-touch.” The visitors were separated from their dads/husbands. We watched as the “dads” who were visited slowly went from being “happy fathers” back to the hard, bitter reality of prison life.
The bus was loaded, and as the bus temperature was cool the children snuggled into their seats and most quickly fell asleep. On the bus, each child was given a teddy bear, books, and a letter from their father. They were also provided with a “stay connected bag” containing stationary, pens, and stamps. This is done to help keep alive the smiles and hugs experienced that day.
At the base of the grapevine, we stopped for dinner at an “In-N-Out” Burger Restaurant. We experienced great, fast service. Once all had meals were in hand, we headed back “up the hill.” By 10:15 p.m. we pulled up in front of Holy Family where we did a trash pickup on the bus, unloaded the remainder of the supplies, and said our goodbyes. This was a very special twenty-four hours that will not soon be forgotten.
Without the support of Holy Family Church, this trip would not be possible. Our community answered the call for help with “blankets to stamps” and everything in between . In January, parishioners bought tickets to Burgers for Buses, purchased raffle tickets, and “stuffed- the- Bus” with generous contributions. In May, people helped send a bus filled with children to Chowchilla to see their Mothers and, when asked, parishioners offered time and talent to also support this bus to Folsom Prison for a “Fathers’ Day” Visit.
Each family offered us their thanks and gratitude for the warmth and hospitality shown by the Holy Family Community. It was a trip that each of them will remember for a lifetime.
We thank you for your love, devotion and compassion to this amazing ministry!
Candy & Jay Krueger, Get on the Bus 2014 Coordinators
Holy Family Church, South Pasadena
Uniting Children with their Mothers and Fathers in Prison