By Mike Schuh

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WJZ)—The Bea Gaddy Family Center’s Thanksgiving Day dinner draws thousands. But did you know, with three weeks to go, preparations have already begun?

Mike Schuh reports the prep is happening at a most unusual place.

With long lines on Thanksgiving, the annual Bea Gaddy dinner long ago outgrew the neighborhood kitchens Gaddy once used.

A commercial kitchen at the Maryland Correctional Enterprises Meat Plant in Hagerstown now cooks the birds.

Boulder solid, the gobblers have begun to thaw.

“They help the less fortunate,” said Thomas Hudson, an inmate from Baltimore.

The knives are chained to the tables.

“Well, obviously, we’re all incarcerated,” said James Bowie, an inmate from Charles County.

That’s right.

“Oh, we’re inmates,” Hudson said.

The birds are prepared inside the wire at the prison in Hagerstown with men who tried or succeeded at murder and robbery.

“I took what I wanted,” Hudson said.

“To have a job like this, you can pretty much say, model inmates,” Bowie said.

After years of being walled off, these men had to learn how to be model inmates, how to earn back society’s trust.

“You can learn from me. I gave away my youth,” Hudson said.

They hope being a prison meat cutter will lead to a job on the outside.

But for now, it’s an exercise in the right thing to do.

“We donate our time when we process Bea Gaddy,” Bowie said.

This from an attempted murderer who will never leave.

“As it stands right now, I’m not. I’m serving a life sentence,” Bowie said.

In all, the prisoners in Hagerstown will be preparing 300 turkeys for Bea Gaddy.

Gaddy didn’t care who you were, what you did, or how you got there. She’d always find another plate at her table, a table that begins in the cutting room at a prison.

“Without the help of this organization, it wouldn’t happen,” said John Fowler, Gaddy’s grandson.

No one has ever been stabbed, slashed or attacked in the cutting room at the prison.

Those turkeys will be thawed out this weekend, cooked on Monday, and carved up, packed and refrigerated on Tuesday.

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