Community Service Project Takes Inmate to the Outfield

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BOONVILLE - Despite the fire, old Kemper Military School's (KMS) football field will see some action again thanks to inmates from the Boonville Correctional Center (BCC).

As part of the 16th Annual Boonslick Area Community Service Project, ten inmates will build a soccer support facility to replace the press box which burned at the Kemper Park soccer field in 2011. 

This project is a collaboration between Nelson Memorial United Methodist Men, the National Organization of Prison Fellowship and Central Methodist University baseball team.

Six years ago the coach of the Central Methodist University baseball team reached out to the community service project leaders because he wanted his players to experience a different way to give back to the community.

"When I took the job as a coach, I inherited kids that were not winning and were not behaving in and out of classroom so I thought this would be a good way for them to see something different," said Coach Fred Smith.

During the service project last year, he made a decision that had never been done before.

"I recruited one of the inmates, well former inmate now, to be on my baseball team," said Fred Smith, head baseball coach. "I saw so much in him, and so I had to take that chance."

Erik Bolten, former Boonville Correctional Center inmate and current student at Central United Methodist, for the first participated in the service project as a member of society. 

"It feels so great. A little crazy though because I am working with people that I used to serve time with," said Bolten. "But if I never joined this service project I would not be where I am now."

Bolten has started his first year at a University and says it has been a hard but positive adjustment.

"It's been hard you know? Not being in school for so long it really changes you," said Bolten. "But it has been so good for me too."

A close friend of Bolten's and a current inmate in Boonville  Correctional Center says watching Bolten's progress has been inspiring.

"I'm proud to death of him," said Dusty Simonton. "We all know what we did wrong, and that's why we are serving time for it. But he is out there making it right again."

This week the inmates and baseball players hope to complete the soccer support facility for youth to enjoy and facilitate soccer games.

On Sunday, September 16th, the program will conclude with a dedication service where the men will receive a certificate of appreciation for the work accomplished.

This years "Challenge to the Class," will be given by Mr. Erik Bolton because of his accomplishments and his commitment to playing on the right side of the field.