ELIZABETHTOWN — Lots of people may say they’ve been bailed out of tough situations by friends or family, but not many residents of Bladen County can say they’ve literally been bailed out — of jail. Quite a few residents will get the experience on Thursday, however, all in the name of fun and funds, when the Bladen County Educational Foundation puts on its sixth annual Jail-A-Thon.
“Last year was the best year we’ve ever had,” said Educational Foundation Treasurer David Wall. “We raised a little over $5,000, so we were extremely pleased.”
People who have been targeted for “arrest” will find a law enforcement officer at their place of business on Thursday, handcuffs in hand, to cart them off in a police car to a bogus jail at the Board of Education. The good sports will don black and white-striped pseudo jail clothes, be attached to a plastic ball and chain, and stand before “Judge” Wall, who reads trumped up charges tailored for each individual and sets bail. Convicts can pay on the spot to be released, or they are allowed unlimited phone calls to help raise money for their freedom.
“We have a lot of fun, a lot of laughter,” said Bladen County Schools Public Information Officer Valerie Newton. “People are on their phones dialing for dollars, I guess you’d say. It’s a real lighthearted time.”
So that no one is shocked by the arrest or their reputation potentially sullied in the name of a good cause, letters were sent out to those who would be arrested, and if they did not want to participate, they could contact Wall to have their name removed.
“Occasionally people are surprised, but that’s probably because they didn’t read their letter,” joked Wall. “By and large, they understand what it is and are good sports about it.”
One of the highlights from last year’s Jail-A-Thon, according to both Wall and Newton, was the arrest of Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker. According to law, the coroner is the only one who can arrest a sheriff, so Bladen County Coroner Hubert Kinlaw geared up for a charade and arrived at the sheriff’s office to escort him out with handcuffs.
“People in the office had their mouths open,” laughed McVicker as he recalled the event.
McVicker thinks he will be arrested again this year.
“I’ll go peacefully,” he quipped, “but I’m not saying anything without my lawyer.”
When asked what he thought about his prospects of making bail, he had this to say: “Well, I’m on a fixed income, so we’ll see how many friends I have. Do you know anybody who could help?”
Money raised is given directly to area schools, who, according to Newton, will use the money for additional resources and classroom supplies for teachers.
“It’s a great need that we have,” she said. “Each year, the money raised has increased thanks to the generosity of the community and those folks who are willing to be arrested.”
Wall stated that the effort couldn’t be accomplished without the good-spirited cooperation of the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, the Elizabethtown Police Department and the White Lake Police Department.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.