Toastmasters group, including Marilyn Graber of Wayland and others from Fairfield, help inmates sharpen their public speaking skills. The group goes into the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison every other Saturday.
The Toastmasters Club in the maximum security prison is run just like any other Toastmasters club on the outside. The prisoners give speeches on prepared topics, practice extemporaneous speaking on current events and evaluate each other on their grammar and fluidity.
Current and past volunteers who have helped with the Toastmasters program at the Iowa State Penitentiary are Jean Symington Craig, Fred Krueger, Betty Krueger, Cindy Traynor, Tom Traynor (all of Fairfield) and Marilyn Graber of Wayland.
The Toastmasters Club in the prison is known as “CONscious Communicators Toastmasters Club.” Graber started a second Toastmasters club within the minimum security prison called “Open Minds.”
Expressing yourself is no easy task within prison walls. Toastmasters is an opportunity for inmates to improve themselves and their self-esteem. The volunteers take away more benefits from what they do than meets the eye.
Prisoners are not going to go out and recite poetry in the exercise yard. They look forward to Toastmasters Club because it is one of the few places where they can speak their mind freely without recrimination. They take pride in their public speaking and try to improve their skills by completing assigned projects.
Toastmasters clubs can earn awards from the parent organization by completing these manuals and through other means such as attracting new members.
Graber has been going since 2005 and finds great reward in giving this service to the Toastmasters Club.