16 Salutes: Bringing Light to ‘a Dark Place’

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SCRANTON -- A woman in Lackawanna County has spent decades helping those behind bars.  She just turned 87 and shows no signs of stopping her work.

Her friends say to know her is to love her.  At 87 years old, Anna Young is slender and small, but she is still a force to be reckoned with.

"Well, you know, when you love what you do, it's no effort, but if you don't like what you do, then it's hell on wheels, isn't it? But I really like what I do," Young said.

For about 50 years, Anna Young has volunteered at the Lackawanna County prison. About twice a week, sometimes more, Anna visits and prays with the inmates. She brings candy and cards.

But more than that, she and her fellow volunteers bring hope.

"They're really just beautiful people and I enjoy being with them and talking with them about their problems and praying with them," Rosemary Grochowski said.

"I am meeting such wonderful women who have been through horrendous situations and are doing their best to get their life back in order," Pat Moroney said.

Volunteer Lillian Vargas tells us helping at the prison can be sad at times, but she tells the inmates if they want, they can change their lives, their future.

"God can change their lives and future."

Anna Young started her prison work in the 1970s after hearing about a lonely inmate from a pastor.

"If God has an audible voice, he said, 'I'm talking to you.' I said, 'You're not talking to me! I can't do that!'"

But she did do that. Anna ended up visiting that inmate for years.

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She welcomed him into her home and later she sponsored other people when they left prison.

There's a room in her home with clothing and Anna invites recently released inmates to take what they need.

Now Anna has dozens of lifelong friends who say she helped save them.

"Jail is darkness," said Angela Rodriguez. "You have no freedom."

Rodriguez spent time behind bars and says Young was a light in that darkness.

"When she goes there, she helps us so much, you know what I mean? She gives us that hope," Rodriguez said.

Young's work makes her perhaps one of the longest-serving volunteers at this prison.

"I'm Catholic so we like to saint people," said Lackawanna County Warden Timothy Betti. "And to me, she's a walking saint. "

She hates being called a saint.  Anna says she's just doing what God wants her to.

"When you love people. Guess what? They're going to love you back. Whether you want them to or not. Isn't that right? What you plant, is what you get back. If you plant love, you get love back. You plant hate? Guess what you get back? Don't want that do we? No, sir."


  • Jane B

    Inmates commit crimes, hurting innocent people. They don’t deserve cards and candy. They are not beautiful people. Inmates get free medical and dental care, gym time, education. And that’s just a few things. Inmates believe they are entitled. This is bogus. Jail is supposed to be a dark place. But it’s not. Letting ex-inmates in your house is dangerous. Humans are different than they were 50 years ago. Humans don’t just steal candy bars anymore. They steal the candy bar then shoot the person before they run out. Humans hurt little kids for life and theu are rewarding the inmates foe doing this. Plus, the inmates should of found God beforehand. Its all a con deal when they act like God is now in their lives. This is a set up for disaster. Stay a week and shadow some prison staff and what they go through and see. You’ll be reporting a story on the flipside.

  • Corrynn Brown

    Anna is an amazing woman and continues to offer hope to many who have been forgotten or stigmatized against. There truly are no words to express the extend of gratitude that many of us hold, as when people did not believe in us Anna Young did and still does. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to her, her work, and the many volunteers that offer their time, dedication, and love.

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