Outreach program brings hope, community to Public Safety Center
Billie Colorow moved to Craig with her three children for a fresh start. But she found herself with too much spare time and couldn't escape her old demons.
"I fell back into my struggles from home," said the former Uintah-Ouray reservation resident. "I was arrested for a DUI in June, three months after moving here."
Little did Colorow know that her arrest and three weeks in the Moffat County Public Safety Center would be the start of hope and recovery for the young mother.
After a week of her sentence, Colorow went to a session of crocheting, organized and led by Craig resident Peggy Bomba.
Colorow said she was a bit skeptical at first, but crocheting quickly became a creative outlet.
"I wasn't very fast at first, but Peggy and the women in the jail encouraged me," she said. "I set deadlines for myself and before I left, I had made a prayer shawl and a little purse for my daughter."
It all came together
Peggy Bomba was sitting in a Moffat County courtroom when several thoughts came together.
"I was on the jury for the case of a young woman and really felt like I should do something to help the women who were in her situation," she said. "At the same time, I had been crocheting prayer shawls for people in the community, but I couldn't keep up with the demand."
Bomba was familiar with a program at her church, The Journey at First Baptist, called Celebrate Inside. It was a ministry going on in the jail with some of the men from the church and the inmates. She talked to them, as well as to Pastor Leonard Browning, about the idea of starting a crochet program for the women in jail.
"We did a study in the church about how each of us has a shape for ministry," Browning said. "And I thought that Peggy's idea fit her shape perfectly."
Bomba wasn't so sure.
"I was scared to go in the jail," she said. "I didn't have any experience with inmates, and I wasn't sure if I was the right person."
But what Bomba did have experience with was crocheting, something she'd done since she was a child, as well as Native American life - she taught on a Navajo reservation before living in Craig. The latter was important because a majority of the Safety Center's female inmates come from reservations through a contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
"I went in not knowing what to expect, but knowing that I could care for their lives," she said.
That was in November 2007.
A year later, crocheting has become a staple every Thursday at the Public Safety Center.
Bomba comes in with a movie and some yarn, and the women inmates talk and crochet.
"It's just a lot of fun," Bomba said. "We talk about life, and I'll help the new ones learn. But really, it's to the point where all the women help each other out."
A captive audience
The inmates covet the Thursday time with Bomba and the opportunity to crochet. Behavior in the female pod has been relatively calm since November.
"Crocheting is the first privilege they lose if there are any behavior issues," Lt. Dean Herndon said. "It has been a great thing for everybody involved."
Herndon said he was a bit skeptical at first, but a year later, he hopes the program is here to stay.
"No matter their beliefs or their background, the women feel accepted when they meet with Peggy," he said. "The people of the BIA have been pleasantly surprised with the behavior of some of the women they've sent."
The weekly visit almost didn't get off the ground because crocheting uses long needles, but Bomba found plastic needles for the jail. The inmates are allowed to crochet in their pod during the week. Their work has helped numerous organizations in the community provide blankets for babies and prayer shawls for those in need of comfort. That includes Herndon's family.
"My wife received a blanket when our daughter died," Herndon said. "You look at how the donations of materials for the program and the feedback we've had that people know this is a worthwhile cause for everybody involved."
Getting guys involved
Bomba found a way to get the male inmates involved with a new project, fleece blankets. Male and female inmates made fleece blankets for their children and families back home. They will be sent out next week.
The Safety Center has started another program to keep the inmates busy and giving back to the outside. Several of the male inmates along with Dean Trujillo, another member of The Journey, have been fixing up bicycles that were abandoned or confiscated.
"We are sending out a bunch of bikes out in a couple of weeks," Herndon said. "It has been another opportunity that is going well."
Colorow's stay at the Safety Center wasn't long, but her time crocheting provided her a new outlet.
"It gave me some hope," she said. "When I got out, I used that hope to find other positive opportunities for me."
Colorow started attending Celebrate Recovery at The Journey and has found other counseling outlets.
Colorow said she became a Christian after she got out of jail, and she has relied on her faith to help stay away from alcohol.
"I've realized I need to focus on my faith and keep myself occupied," she said.
Not soon after she got out of jail, she saw Bomba at church and it made sense.
"I realized that Peggy's faith was central to why she was at the jail," Colorow said.
Now, Colorow's story is a source of inspiration for the women in the jail, Bomba said.
"They know that things are going better for Billie, and they have more hope (for) when they get out," Bomba said. "I'm not sure what's next for crocheting, but I trust God will take care of what's next."