Thanksgiving meal served to inmates

Advocate staff photo by LIBBY ISENHOWER --  LSU junior offensive lineman Chris Davenport talks to offenders in the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel Sunday while volunteering with Harvest Outreach Ministries.
Advocate staff photo by LIBBY ISENHOWER -- LSU junior offensive lineman Chris Davenport talks to offenders in the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel Sunday while volunteering with Harvest Outreach Ministries. "I believe in giving back, because I didn't have anyone to show me the way," Davenport said.

Serey Kong, an inmate at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, said words could not describe how delicious her special meal was Sunday.

Kong along with more than 1,000 inmates dined on a feast catered by Tee Wayne’s Cajun Cooking of St. Amant and organized by Harvest Outreach Ministries of Mansfield.

“You didn’t have to guess what the meat was,” Kong said, joking.

Harvest Outreach Ministries hosts services about once a month at the facility, including one after the Sunday meal, said the Rev. Troy N. Terrell, founder of Harvest Outreach.

Terrell said Sunday was the first time the church attempted to feed all the inmates.

“We wanted to give them a Thanksgiving meal,” he said.

The inmates, wearing different combinations of white, blue, gray and pink prison outfits, filed into the cafeteria in waves with the first group arriving about 11:20 a.m.

The roughly 40 tables in the cafeteria filled up quickly as the women feasted on jambalaya, salad, rolls and cookies.

Volunteers walked around the cafeteria and mingled with the inmates, speaking to them about faith, life and how good the food was.

“We hope you enjoy your meal,” volunteer Carl Carrigan told the crowd.

“Thank you,” the inmates responded.

As Terrell walked into the cafeteria, he began clapping. The inmates quickly began clapping with him to show their appreciation.

“This is something very special for them,” Warden Jim Rogers said. “They don’t get these kinds of treats very often.”

Terrell said Harvest Outreach has brought the ministry to the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women for 10 years and helped build a chapel on the campus five years ago.

He said Harvest Outreach also performs ministries at nearby Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola and Avoyelles Correctional Center.

Terrell said his organization reaches out to inmates because the Bible tells Christians not to forget sinners and outcasts.

“You’re coming to a place of hopelessness and giving them hope,” Terrell said.

Kong said she attends the Harvest Outreach services because she enjoys Terrell’s humor and how he makes scripture easy to understand.

“The services work for me because they make me feel like I belong,” Kong said.

“Tee” Wayne Abshire, owner of Tee Wayne’s Cajun Cooking, said his business has worked to cater some of Harvest Outreach Ministries’ events in the past.

Abshire said Sunday was the first time they brought food to the inmates at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.

“Some people are telling me it’s the best food they’ve had all year,” he said.

Abshire said he enjoys giving back to the community when he can because it’s a way for him to count his blessings.

“We’ve been blessed with our business, and anytime we can give back to the community like this, it’s a good thing,” Abshire said.

The women also received a small taste of celebrity when LSU junior offensive lineman Chris Davenport made the trek to the facility as part of the ministry’s outreach.

As Davenport walked around, he took photos and signed autographs with the inmates.

Davenport, a Mansfield native, said he has known Terrell since he was in high school and has been to Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women several times for Harvest Outreach’s services.

Davenport said he attended Sunday, one day after playing a football game, because he wants to do as much outreach as he can.

“I came to put a smile on their faces,” Davenport said.