Prison inmates walked the Lorain County Fairgrounds this week and helped set up everything from tents to parking lots before the fair kicks off this Monday.
This is the third year volunteers from the Grafton Correctional Institution visited Wellington for fair set-up. A majority of the volunteers are part of the Dope is for Dopes program.
Men in the program visit schools and community venues to talk about life choices and how decisions they’ve made landed them in prison jumpsuits.
James Moore, 39, is one of several men who took to the fairgrounds for set-up duty. He’s serving a 10-year sentence for drug trafficking and is scheduled to be released in May.
He’s spent the last three summers volunteering at the fair and said the Dope is for Dopes program changed his outlook on life.
“It made me appreciate life,” he said. “It made me value what I missed out on.”
Moore enjoys going out into the community to give back and work hard. He believes the time he’s spent volunteering will make his transition back into society easier.
“Being able to come out makes me not afraid to go home,” he said. “We go out so much I’m still in touch.”
Ray Leiby has volunteered at the fair for around 20 years and he oversees the prisoners as they work. He said they complete work in two or three days when it used to take five of six.
“You couldn’t get a better bunch of guys,” he said. “They work hard and fast. Sometimes I have a hard time keeping up and I’m on a tractor.”
Leiby said he’s even offered the inmates he meets jobs for when they get out.
Moore is grateful for the Dope is for Dopes program and appreciates that he’s treated like a human being and not a criminal.
“If I was still treated like a prisoner it wouldn’t be worth coming out,” he said.
Moore and the other volunteers will be back the week after the fair to clean up.
He said he’s never seen the crowd of more than 100,000 people that descends on the grounds each August but plans to bring his 10-year-old daughter to the fair as soon as he’s a free man.
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.
Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Wellington Enterprise Grafton Correctional Institution inmates James Moore, Curtis Humprey, and Demetrius Lewis pose with Ray Leiby before continuing to set up the parking lot for the more than 100,000 visitors that will be at the fairgrounds next week.