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Myra Wooten's Thanksgiving came from prison.

Officers from state correctional institutions in Jessup and Baltimore delivered a large box packed with a week's worth of food, including a frozen 13-pound turkey, to the East Baltimore resident.

The box came in a blue van usually used to shuttle shackled prisoners between jail and court, but on Tuesday it ferried canned vegetables, macaroni and cheese, and cake mixes to needy families around Baltimore.

"Now I don't have to worry about Thanksgiving," said Wooten, a 32-year-old single mother of two young boys who lives on East 23rd Street. She works two jobs - as a finance clerk at the Social Security Administration and as a painter for a home improvement company - to make ends meet.

"Wow, this is a whole lot of food," she said as she foraged through the box on her living room floor as her new cat, Dean, scampered about. "I try my best, but I'm struggling. This has everything I need."

Wooten's was one of five families who received holiday food boxes from the officers, part of a wider program that involves donations to schools in the city and Anne Arundel County. Officers at other institutions are throwing holiday parties at elementary schools, giving away toys and serving Thanksgiving meals at homeless shelters.

Even inmates get into the act: Those who work at the Maryland Correctional Enterprises Meal Plant in Hagerstown cooked more than 700 turkeys for the poor.

Sgt. Sonji Lynn, an eight-year veteran officer who sets up volunteer programs at the maximum-security Jessup Correctional Institution, gave Wooten a big hug and posed with her holding the turkey. Lynn said it's a welcome change to get outside the prison walls and help people in the community.

"It's a chance to give someone a break," the sergeant said.

The correctional officers got Wooten's name from the staff at Furman L. Templeton Elementary School, where her two boys, ages 6 and 10, attend classes. Wooten said she doesn't accept public assistance but uses child support from her sons' two fathers to pay for their after-school care.

She said she's getting by - her youngest boy loves to eat and her oldest loves lasagna - and she proudly showed pictures of the children dressed up with their "dates" at an elementary school prom. But she said holidays are lonely times, especially after each of her sons' fathers takes the boys to visit their other families.

"I sit on the couch and fold laundry and play with the cat," Wooten said.

The correctional officers posed for pictures with Wooten and quickly departed. "Enjoy," Lynn said, as they carefully walked down the wobbly wooden steps of the rowhouse in the East Baltimore-Midway community and headed off to the next house, on Mosher Street on the west side.

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