PEORIA — Sandra Malone, a correctional officer at Pekin’s federal prison, says she’s hopeful the three-week respite from the partial government shutdown will become a permanent one.
It’s been hard for her, being the only breadwinner for her family. Fortunately, she has family, friends and a caring pastor to help, but it’s stressful. So much so that going to work, even when she’s not getting paid, is a way to forget the anxiety for a while.
“It bothers me that the president feels that building a wall is more important that people who live check to check,” she said.
That sentiment was echoed by several people, all of whom are affiliated with the prison. They were at a giveaway event, sponsored by It Takes A Village-Peoria, which offered up a store-like atmosphere for federal workers to shop — for free — for items they need.
There were canned goods, bunches of bananas, diapers, toiletries and prepared food. Each family went shopping, carrying a plastic bag and took whatever they needed. Some left with a single bag. Others with a large cardboard box full of things.
That’s the goal, said Bernice Gordon-Young, the founder and the head of It Takes a Village-Peoria, the organization that helped to coordinate the store.
“At It Takes a Village, we take care of everyone,” she said with a smile. The idea to do this store came last weekend. By Monday, on Martin L. King, Jr. Day, they had a table where people could leave donations or money at the annual luncheon. A few days of hard work later, and the Peoria County Jail's old work release center was transformed into a full-service store.
Mary Ella Wilson, whose husband, William, works at the prison, said the past month has been hard. They are “meticulous” with their money and managed to eek by with a small loan and watching their spending. Their family helped, too, but she realizes that not everyone is that lucky.
Wilson is a stay-at-home mom, and she’s leery to say the situation is over, because her husband’s check is the only income for their family of three. But for now, things seem to be looking up as the news means that a paycheck could be coming soon.
Mario Young, another prison worker, said Friday’s announcement is nice because he knows he’ll get a check soon. However, he’s nervous for what might happen after that three-week period ends. Will he be forced to go back to work without pay? Will the government shut down again? The uncertainty is troubling.
“How do I provide for my family again?” he said. “Every day, we go in and our job is to protect and keep our area safe, to keep the inmates safe. We have a major role in keeping everyone safe, but in the grand scheme of things, we are just puppets, we are just pawns and we just don’t matter to them.”
Those seeking more information or who would like to learn more about the store or It Takes a Village-Peoria, please contact Bernice Gordon-Young at 309-922-1969 or Tammika Evans-Faulkner at 309-264-4383.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.