By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Elijah Caldwell has spent numerous Thanksgivings eating turkey and dressing and watching football with family and friends.
To him Thanksgiving was just, well, Thanksgiving – a time to show thanks for all things good in a person’s life, he said.
Even though he’ll still have the dressing, turkey and other good eats that surface around the holidays, there will be no football games or family for Caldwell this Thanksgiving.
Caldwell, 33, and about 250 other adult and juvenile inmates at the Lee County jail and Lee County Juvenile Center will have their Thanksgiving meals behind the jail walls.
Caldwell and other trusties at the jail usually help prepare the daily meals for inmates, but today they get a break because food will be brought in by a church. The inmates will get a full holiday meal including turkey, dressing and an assortment of deserts.
“I can’t be home with my folks and I accept that,” said Caldwell. “But it still is good for me to be able to eat like I’m home even if it’s only for a day. We have a lot of churches to come around during this time of year and feed us and just let us know that someone cares, so I am very thankful for that. Believe it or not, there are some people who really care.”
Sheriff Jim Johnson said things most people consider routine, such as having cranberry sauce with the dressing, are things that inmates truly appreciate.
“Getting together with family, eating a big dinner or maybe just having a slice of your favorite pie. These are things most of us really take for granted,” said Johnson. “We will be eating leftover turkey for a month but for these inmates it’s a one-day deal and they are thankful and take full advantage of it. This is a huge deal for them, not just another holiday.”
Johnson said just knowing that someone on the outside cares helps the inmates.
Kevin Ruff, 21, is spending his second Thanksgiving in the Lee County jail. He said he tries not to think about where he is and plans to just enjoy the day.
“I just thank the Lord for everything,” said Ruff, who also helps to prepare the meals. “I thank everyone who makes the day possible for inmates. We are in jail, but we are still people just like anyone else.”