By William K. Harter
This month’s award goes to a dedicated family who believes in helping people.
Wesley and Frances Gardner have lived in Warwick for about 30 years. They moved to Warwick to be closer to their church, the Buttonwoods Chapel. They taught Sunday School there all that time. They are known as team workers, Wes & Fran.
All his life, Wes was a chemist, doing research and development. He had been a pastor at the Chapel. Many years ago Fran started adult life as a clerk, but gave that up to be a housewife and do God’s work as she says. She is the president of the church’s ladies missionary group.
They volunteered at the prison for the past 30 years. They conducted Bible Classes every Thursday during that time. On Mondays, they would go in for the afternoon and talk to prisoners, counseling them.
Also, they were the RI prison coordinators for Emmaus College. Every week they would gather the correspondence course papers and bring them home. They had 8 helpers to correct the papers and Wes & Fran would return the graded papers with comments to the prisoners within a week. By picking up the papers and doing the work in RI, they saved the prisoners and the college the expense of postage for the courses and speeded returns.
They also were involved in other religious events in prison. One would see them at baptisms and they would often stand up and speak for an inmate being baptized or at some other religious event.
use the past tense for this award because Wes died of cancer 2 years ago this January at 82 years. Fran, in her 80s, continues on alone. Due to so many commitments, they had to give up the Bible classes at church some years ago. After his death, she had to cut back on the Bible classes at the prison. Another man does the classes, but she still attends. She still continues visiting inmates and the correcting of Emmaus papers.
For those of you that have visited prisoners, you know what it is like to go through the gates and inspections. Imagine going in a few times a week with bags full of Bibles and correspondence envelopes, all in sealed envelopes! And then leaving with your bags loaded with more material that must be checked to make sure nothing is being sneaked in or out to aid prisoners! And they have done this at least twice weekly for 30 years! They deserve an award!