Inmates sewing period costumes to promote local history

August 09, 2019 - 4:00 am
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Olathe, KS - Mahafffie Stagecoach Stop in Olathe, the only working stop left on the Santa Fe Trail, has partnered with the Topeka Correctional Facility, thanks to the Freedom’s Frontier Interpretive Grant program that teaches female inmates the skill of sewing period clothing for the volunteers at Mahaffie. Katie Lange, program coordinator with the historic site says it benefits both sides, with inmates filling their downtime by learning new sewing skills, and for Mahaffie, they're adding a lot of great clothing to their collection. 

"Period clothing is hugely expensive, and labor intensive and difficult to make, but this partnership allows us to acquire it relatively easily while also doing some good in our community," explains Lange. 

Members of the historic site have been working with about a dozen woman at the prison for several weeks now. The inmates have made about 18 young girl's dresses for the youth volunteers to wear at events. 

Lange says it's also an opportunity for the inmates to learn about history and cultural sites. She says many have never been to a living museum before, but are planning to visit when they get out.

She says working with inmates is a first for her. "It was really interesting to see what their life is like, and to hear about their goals for their future and how they want to make an impact on their community while they're there serving their time," explains Lange.

She says 12 inmates volunteer their free-time to produce the garments. The grant is expected to last throughout this next year, and covers the cost of all the supplies needed. 

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