Sutton Elementary School Principal Krista Thompson was ready and waiting at the rear entrance with five students for Friday's shipment of 490 pumpkins to arrive.

These pumpkins, however, weren't purchased or grown by a local farmer. Instead, the pumpkins were the product of inmates housed at the Daviess County Detention Center.

And as part of an annual community service program, the pumpkins were donated to the school.

Thompson said she and the children were excited about receiving the pumpkins.

"We've never done it before; somebody tagged me about it on Facebook," Thompson said. "So I just called (the jail) and said we'd love to have some pumpkins. …

They're bringing one for every kid."

Jailer Art Maglinger and three of his deputies -- Capt. Joe Moore, Sgt. Zack Ezell and Sgt. Keith Stiff -- hauled the pumpkin load inside three separate crates on a trailer.

To that point, Sutton had been the largest order of the 18 scheduled locations.

However, Maglinger still had Country Heights Elementary on his list to fulfill with 530 pumpkins.

"It's just a small way for the inmates to give back to the community," Maglinger said.

The pumpkins are part of the jail's inmate garden program that's considered a privilege to Level 1 and 2 inmates who have nonviolent offenses.

And the fall classic, orange gourd is by far the largest crop grown. Last year, the inmates raised about 1,000 pumpkins.

The free pumpkin program started five years ago and as word has gotten out, Maglinger said the demand has increased.

"It's gotten bigger and we've designated more space to grow the pumpkins," Maglinger said. "...We're at about 5 acres now and we'll probably have between 2,500 to 3,000 pumpkins this year."

Some schools are using them for decorations while others are incorporating them into a classroom project.

Thompson said Sutton does have a plan for its pumpkins.

"Our guidance counselor is going to be doing an anti-bullying, be kind contest," Thompson said. "And the students are going to paint them. Every kid is going to get to come out and pick one. Then she's going to do a guidance lesson with them."

Ezell, who manages garden duties at the jail, has been with pumpkin program from the start.

He said the inmates know why the pumpkins are being grown and who they're going to.

"The inmates look forward to it because they know what the kids get out of it," Ezell said. "It's more than just giving back to the community; the smiles on the kids' faces make it worth it at the end of the day."

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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