MCLOUD — Sheila Hargis didn't think she'd ever see the day, and she almost missed it with her parole from the state's maximum-security prison for women coming in a little over a month.
Hargis, 40, said she expects to be paroled in late September, but not before seeing a prison chapel at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center begin to take shape.
She was one of several inmates, faith community volunteers, legislative leaders and prison officials who recently celebrated during a groundbreaking ceremony for the chapel. As one of the inmates who donated money to the chapel building fund, Hargis said she was amazed to see the fundraising efforts come to fruition.
“It's hard to just not start crying because we started raising money some time ago,” Hargis said.
The Rev. Joe Wilson, of Enid, domestic coordinator for World Mission Builders, said the $500,000 in funding and in-kind goods and services needed to build and furnish the chapel has come from private donations from individuals and churches from across Oklahoma and other states. He said the project still lacks $100,000, but construction will begin because the majority of the money has come in. He said he recently placed the order for the chapel's steeple and baptistery.
Wilson said the chapel will be built beginning Sept. 16 in the style of an old-fashioned barn-raising. He said volunteers from Oklahoma and other states will build the chapel, which will be the fifth built at Oklahoma prisons by faith-based World Mission Builders.
“What I observed on my first visit to Mabel Bassett was that we have an adequate number of volunteers and good programs and curriculum, but the missing link has been the facility, the chapel — the dedicated space,” he said. “The Lord is just doing it and so we are excited about it.”
The Rev. Charles Freyder, Mabel Bassett's chaplain, said it is important to the inmates that the chapel will not look like a prison building. He said they also are pleased that so many people cared enough about them to donate money for the chapel.
Hargis, of Oklahoma City, said she has been serving out her sentence for a drug trafficking conviction since 2004. She said she is one of the inmates who helps faith community volunteers with their Bible studies and other programs.
“Women who come after us are going to benefit from this,” she said. “It's going to bring hope to a lot of women.”
Another inmate, Sophia Carbajal, of El Paso, Texas, said she has been at Mabel Bassett for about a year to serve a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. She said she is looking forward to the chapel's completion so she can continue her spiritual journey in the dedicated space.
“I've been walking closer to the Lord, since I've been here,” she said.