Kimberly Daugherty founded Green Gals in 2012 as a way to fulfill a desire in her life to grow and learn. After working in corrections for over 10 years, Kimberly decided to focus on her family and step away from the prison system. Her time “out of prison” so to say was short lived. After developing crafting skills from recycled materials and selling items to raise money for charity, Kimberly knew she needed to expand her passion. She soon realized she had the ability to combine both her passion of expanding herself through learning to make new items from recycled materials and also teaching, counseling, and empowering inmates. In July of 2013, she presented the idea to the prison to give the inmates the opportunity to pursue knowledge and utilize their time in a way that reminds them that they are people and they have something valuable to contribute to society. Within a month, she was given a building and Green Gals took on a whole new identity.
In the Green Gals program, Kimberly incorporates life lessons into the crafting, although they aren’t always aware of it. As any crafter knows, the frustration that goes along with trying to learn a new skill requires patience and the ability to problem solve. Similar skills can be used in life. “It’s the same idea as sewing a blanket. You don’t just get pissed and give up on yourself. You get pissed, you take a breath, and you keep going.” When she teaches these life lessons in the crafting environment, it takes on a totally new, non-threatening avenue.
The ladies are also given a new way to express their feelings and emotions, something sometimes dangerous to show in a maximum security prison setting. “They can’t verbalize ‘I’m afraid’ but they can paint fear. Or they can paint that I’m hurt or I’m feeling betrayed. They can’t just walk around with feelings like that.”
Green Gals produce items such as coasters, jewelry, artwork, and most recently tutus and simple children’s dresses. Items are sold at Gravity in NOTO and Oddfellows Bookstore in Downtown as well as various fairs and festivals. The ladies are responsible for the pricing and choosing what items they want to make. The money earned goes to a project the inmates choose. For Christmas this past year, the ladies decided they wanted to make gifts for children of the inmates. The gift included a notebook and pencil (to write a note to their incarcerated parent), and a chocolate snowman. The ladies made 250 bags from recycled materials and used Green Gals proceeds to purchase the other items.
As they continue to grow and become more profitable, the inmates are making way for exciting opportunities for their futures. Kimberly just received approval from the warden to allow the program to start paying for college courses. An education was never an option for the majority of the women in the program, and now through their own hard work and dedication, they will be able to advance their life in a productive and positive way.
Because of Kimberly’s passion to enrich and inspire, Green Gals has opened a door for women to learn they are more than their past mistakes or circumstances. Every day she shows them they are more than a sentence and have so many talents and skills to offer the world. One inmate at a time, Kimberly is making our society a better place.
by Stephanie West | art by Buck Reist