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Church delivers cakes to fathers behind bars

LAWRENCEVILLE - Every Father's Day for the past 42 years, the ladies of the First Baptist Church of Grayson have been baking cakes for the inmates of the Gwinnett Department of Corrections Facility.

"It's a mission our church has been blessed to do for those who aren't able to be at home with their families on Father's Day," Wilma Brownlee said.

The feeling is mutual among the inmates who get to enjoy the cakes.

"A lot of people look at us as hardened criminals, so it's a blessing to have someone who understands we're people and who is reaching out to extend us some courtesy," inmate Reginald Griffin said.

The inmates, whose families are allowed to visit on Father's Day, find holidays to be very difficult times of the year.

"It's tough because I have kids, but also because I have a father that I'm not able to be with," inmate John Seidel said.

Griffin agreed and said that since his time in jail, he's learned a lot of things about his own father.

"There's a lot of stuff that I want to let my dad know that I appreciate him doing," Griffin said, "and Father's Day is the perfect time to do that."

Back in 1963, when Brownlee and her husband Buck had the idea to take cakes to the inmates, only eight cakes were needed to feed all the inmates, according to Brownlee.

Now that there are more than 500 inmates, Brownlee, members of the First Baptist Church of Grayson and members of the First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville bake about 60 cakes for all of the inmates and staff.

"We've never worried about having enough," Brownlee said. "We know God will provide and the church has graciously responded each year."

"It's something the church takes pride in and something that we encourage because it helps maintain a positive attitude among the inmates,"

Lt. Darrell Johnson of the Gwinnett Department of Corrections said.

Brownlee said the inmates are always very thankful for what the church does for them, a sentiment that was reflected by some of the inmates.

"We greatly appreciate what they do for us," Seidel said. "We get good desserts here, but what they make is really something special."

Griffin said, "They give to us, and hopefully we'll be able to give back to the community when we get out."