POULSBO â€” One Saturday each month, North Kitsap Fishline executive director Sharon Kirkpatrick hops into her van and journeys to Purdy, making a few key stops along the way.
Kirkpatrick picks up five Boy Scouts to attend a special meeting at the Washington Corrections Center for Women as part of the Scoutreach Program for Incarcerated Mothers.
She will be honored for this commitment today at the 26th Annual Kitsap County â€œFriends of Scouting Leadership Breakfastâ€ at the Kitsap Convention Center in Bremerton.
â€œI started with Girl Scouts Behind Bars in 1999 and in the process of picking up the girls, there would be little boys standing at the door,â€ Kirkpatrick said.
At the time, the Boy Scouts of America didnâ€™t have a program to reach behind prison walls, she said, adding, â€œI had little boys saying they wanted to be a Girl Scout and it was real hard for me to explain to a 6-year-old boy he couldnâ€™t belong because he wasnâ€™t a girl.â€
Following that experience, Kirkpatrick said she met with Boy Scouts officials to discuss starting a program similar to Girl Scouts Behind Bars.
â€œThey thought it was a good idea and I already knew who the boys were in King County because I picked up their sisters once a month,â€ Kirkpatrick said.
Once the program took root in King and Pierce counties, she added Kitsap and Clallam counties.
â€œI think itâ€™s a real hard concept for some people because they feel like kids being able to see their mothers is some type of reward,â€ she said.
However, without the program to maintain the parent/child bond, many of these kids could run a greater risk of ending up behind bars themselves, Kirkpatrick said.
â€œBoy Scouts provides them with some stability and some positive male role models and it also keeps moms and kids together,â€ she said.
The program has been well-received by parents, children and prison officials as well, because inmates who are in the program tend to have fewer problems, she added, noting that not all inmates qualify for the program and must go through an application and screening process before they can participate.
â€œThe prison officials love it because it gives the mothers an incentive to be on their best behavior,â€ she said.
With all of the miles involved and one Saturday a month given, in addition the countless hours she spends at Fishline, Kirkpatrick said the end result is worth it.
â€œWhen you see the moms and sons together, you know why youâ€™re doing it,â€ she said.