Aspen inmates sell flowers for hungry kids |

Aspen inmates sell flowers for hungry kids

Charles Agar
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen TimesAn inmate makes a paper rose at the Pitkin County Jail. This man, who asked his name not be used, got the idea to raise money for hungry kids while eating ribs during the Super Bowl.

ASPEN, Colorado ” Flowers are growing in the Pitkin County jail.

Two inmates are turning toilet paper, paint, and a little hard work into faux roses they’re selling to raise money for starving children in Haiti.

“I started out making them to romance my girlfriend,” one man said (the pair want to remain anonymous). “The more I made, the better I got at it.”

The men came up with the idea while eating a Super Bowl feast of ribs and chicken. When they spied a newspaper story about children eating dirt to stay alive in Haiti, suddenly their meal was flavored with guilt, they said.

“People are actually eating dirt for nutrition,” one man said. “We read that and said, ‘That’s messed up!'”

With no funds of their own, the men decided they’d use their time and make roses they’d sell for $6 a piece. The money will go to the Mercy and Sharing Foundation ” started by Aspenites Joe and Susie Scott Krabacher (see ” which tries to improve the lives of impoverished Haitians.

A contribution of $12 feeds one Haitian child for a month, and the two men were pleased that their first two sales earned them $224.

“That almost feeds two people for a year,” one said.

Jail officials are supplying the material ” “We stock plenty of toilet paper,” said jail supervisor Don Bird. And inmates have access to arts and crafts materials such as paint and tape.

Any fees from roses the men sell goes directly to the nonprofit, Bird said.

No money goes to the two flower makers.

“In my experience, inmates are fairly egocentric because they see themselves as victims,” Bird said. “What I like is these guys were able to transcend that and look at some other person and feel compassion for their situation and feel empowered to do something about it.”

Making flowers occupies the better part of the men’s day, from eight to ten hours when they are not locked in their cells.

The men use acrylic paint thinned with water to spritz long strips of toilet paper pastel colors. Then one man readies the petals by curling the edges between thumb and forefinger, while the other man attaches the petals to a stem made of recycled photocopy paper rolled tight and later painted dark green.

The work has taken the pair away from their marathon cribbage matches, they said, but gives them time to talk and swap philosophies, including a newfound spirituality.

“We’re just two guys in jail; we can’t save the world,” one of the flower-makers said.

But both men hope to raise awareness about the plight of the poor in Haiti. And making flowers is “more purposeful than what I’ve done with my life so far,” said one.

The two men have not contacted the Krabachers, but plan to surprise the couple with a big check in coming weeks.

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