Stories from #ProjectOrange Volunteers

My Story - by Chris Tebow Smith

Okay, so full disclosure, I registered only two people on the very first day of Project Orange, so I'm a little embarrassed about that. I first read about this effort on Facebook last summer and wanted to sign up, but Harvey had other plans for the city. When I saw it pop up again in December, I signed up and was vetted.

I became a VDVR in May of 2017, but hadn't really connected with any events yet. This appealed to me because for some reason I relate best to outsiders and loners, and I hate injustice. I've had co-workers, relatives, and acquaintances - all good people - who have gone to prison or jail, and they deserve their humanity and their rights. They are forgotten and vilified, instead.

I was nervous. I wasn't nervous at all about interacting with the inmates - and I am basically unshockable -  but was worried about whether I was parking at the right place, worried that I wouldn't fill out the forms correctly...stupid stuff. Tina and Durrel were wonderful, warm, and welcoming to those of us who showed up; it was new ground for them, too, the VERY FIRST DAY! The officers could not have been nicer on this groundbreaking day, and they walked us through what to expect, how to react, what to do, what not to do...

BUT they gave me a new worry, how to keep track of the MANY pens I brought. You must account for every single one or they have to put the entire facility on lock down until an errant pen has been recovered.

I still have nightmares about my Bics.

The guys (we didn't make it to the women's floor that first day) were receptive to a new experience - especially one involving women on their floors - and some lined up maybe out of curiosity. They were mostly really sweet, but boy, was it hard to hear in there. And I learned something else. In jail, the elevators don't have buttons.

It was a great and humbling experience. Thanks for letting me participate in this great program.

I will never forget tiny powerhouse Margie telling everyone who registered, "Congratulations!"