More than 40 students gathered at Milton’s Lydia B. Cannon Museum Jan. 26 for a day of service honoring Milton native and acclaimed civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson.
Milton Historical Society President Marie Mayor said the day was planned to help people recently released from prison transition back into the community.
“They’ve made amends. Their next steps are also steps into greatness,” Mayor said, referring to the name of the museum exhibit on Stevenson, Walking Into Greatness.
Students packed 80 dignity bags containing a backpack, bus tickets, toiletries, gloves, stationery, Stevenson’s bestselling book “Just Mercy” and a 2020 calendar from Stevenson’s law firm, the Equal Justice Initiative. Students also wrote personalized notes for each bag.
Bags will be distributed to previously incarcerated people through Georgetown-based programs Second Chance Re-Entry, part of First State Community Action Agency, and The Way Home, museum curator Heidi Nasstrom Evans said.
Cape High senior Maddie Betts said she has read the first chapter of Stevenson’s book.
“I really like it a lot,” she said. “I really like his message, and his mission is very inspiring. It’s cool that he graduated from Cape - it makes me think I could go somewhere, too.”
While some students packed bags, others toured the exhibit on Stevenson, which has drawn more people to the Milton Historical Society than ever before in the organization’s 50 years, Evans said. The exhibit will remain on view through February.
Evans said the museum is working with five Sussex County libraries to develop a traveling version of the exhibit to be used as a backdrop for Just Mercy-related literary discussions.
“The Milton Historical Society is grateful to the team of people who donated their energy to help develop a service day which will teach participating students about Stevenson’s philosophy of redemption, just mercy - the idea that we are all more than the worst thing we have done - and provide re-entering citizens with items they will need after imprisonment,” Evans said.
Additional partners include CAMP Rehoboth, DE Humanities, and the Multi-Faith Community Program. Epworth United Methodist Church and Seaside Jewish Community in Rehoboth, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Milton, and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lewes helped fund the event.