West Feliciana Parish Sheriff J. Austin Daniel recently provided a meal to thank inmates for their work in crafting toys for children in the parish.

Items that would be discarded or sent to the trash pile are retooled and refurbished each year in the toy shop at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

An old broken broom handle may be transformed into a stick pony or used for a push toy, or a busted bicycle may be fixed and painted.

Prisoners at the Toy Shop Inc. have committed themselves to handcrafting thousands of toys and restoring hundreds of bicycles for underprivileged children each December.

Once they’ve completed their other responsibilities, a group of about 15 work year-round in the toy shop in anticipation of donating the toys each year to law enforcement agencies, charities, churches and organizations that then distribute the bicycles and toys to youth throughout the parish.

“It’s a way to ensure every child receives a Christmas gift,” Daniel said.

And as a way to thank the inmates for their hard work, Daniel and others from the Sheriff’s Office volunteer each year to cook and share a meal with the veteran prisoners.

On June 22, a meal of barbecue chicken, baked beans, potato salad, a roll, peach cobbler and ice cream was shared.

“Y’all do good work here, and I just want to make sure you know that you put smiles on lots of kids’ faces,” Daniel said. “They love getting these toys and bikes. What you’re doing here is a good thing.”

The toy shop program has expanded since it began in 1993 after a group of inmates proposed the idea.

Chief Investigator Jim Groody, of the West Feliciana Parish Coroners Office, prepared the meal.

Angola Warden Burl Cain has said that for the prisoners working in the toy shop, the work is an act of rehabilitation that not only benefits the community but also helps the inmates.

Toy Shop Inc. handcrafts wooden push toys, cars, trucks, planes and jewelry out of scrap wood, metal and other donated materials.