ORLEANS - Last year, Sheriff James Cummings' inmate work crews provided over $570,000 in free labor to non-profits across Barnstable County. Last week an inmate work crew was scheduled to work at the grand old Odd Fellows Hall in Orleans. Cape Cod Today and Lower Cape TV both visited the job site to witness the work of inmate crew as well as to learn more about this vital program provided by the Sheriff's office.
Odd Fellows Hall is an historic 1850's schoolhouse that served the town of Orleans until 1875 when the Odd Fellows purchased the property. Recently the "Northwest Schoolhouse" has seen increased activity as several local groups have moved in with the Odd Fellows. Most recently, two Masonic groups - Universal Masonic Lodge and Sylvester Baxter Royal Arch Chapter - took up residence. The building is also the site of much of the "production" work of the Masonic Angel Foundation, such as the recent assembly and distribution of over 1,800 school supply packages.
An old outbuilding on the property had fallen in to disrepair and the Odd Fellows were looking for an affordable way to repair the structure. Masonic Angel Foundation president Robert Fellows suggested to Odd Fellows treasurer Bill Wordell that they approach Sheriff Cummings to see if an inmate work crew might be able to help.
In response to the request, Captain Joseph Brait came out to look at the job. The Sheriff's office then submitted a materials list to the Odd Fellows. As soon as the Lodge had the materials delivered, a work schedule was set and the inmates arrive.
Each day an inmate crew works on site, the hosting non-profit provides breakfast and lunch for the crew. During the seven days the crew worked on the Orleans fraternal property they received breakfast sandwiches and coffee in the morning and a hot pasta meal from Papa Gino's at lunchtime.
Over the course of seven days, the crew made extensive repairs to the outbuilding and also performed other important tasks at the property. Inmates painted the ceilings in the Lodge room and second floor areas, made minor repairs to outside stairways, and removed hundreds of pounds of unwanted items inside the main building. The crew also reconfigured the banquet hall with modern banquet tables and chairs. They also removed dozens of unwanted items on the first floor of the historic building.
The spruced up property had its debut with the twentieth anniversary celebration for the Masonic Angel Foundation on November 8th.
On October 31st Sheriff Cummings and representatives from the Odd Fellows' Fraternal Lodge #132, Universal Masonic Lodge and the Masonic Angel Foundation were all interviewed by Lower Cape TV. One inmate also voluteered to be interviewed. The news segment from those interviews is embedded below.
The Odd Fellows' treasurer, Bill Wordell, expressed his appreciation for the Sheriff donating inmate labor to help them solve a problem. "Projects like this are beyond the reach of a small non-profit without community support such as this." Wordell praised the crew for their skill, efficiency and kindness.
The crew consisted of some men that are professional tradesmen along with some younger inmates who are learning the trade from their skilled co-workers. Inmate worker Keith Doucette says the workers do everything from construction to painting, landscapign and masonry - and teaches younger inmates a trade they can use when they complete their sentences.
Sheriff Cummings reports that he been contacted by several contractors asking about hiring some inmate laborers upon their release.