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'Pancake Saturdays' help former felons stay out of jail

Pancakes. (WJLA photo)
Pancakes. (WJLA photo)
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WASHINGTON (WJLA) – A D.C. man is proving that sometimes it just takes food and friendship to help others turn their lives around and stay out of jail.

Graham McLaughlin started a weekly gathering on Saturdays at his home that includes friends and former felons.

They start their morning with a short jog through Southeast D.C. Then, it’s on to some exercise. Following the workout, the group, including some former felons, comes together to support each other over a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, chicken sausage and turkey bacon.

During the week, McLaughlin works in a D.C. office, but on Saturdays, he’s the cook. He started up the informal group at his house known as “Pancake Saturdays” last August, along with his roommate, Will Avila, who spent time in jail.

Avila was a teenager when he was convicted. Now, he is turning his life around and trying to help other former inmates do the same by sharing his story. He reads a poem he wrote while he was in jail called “Mis Ojos” (My Eyes), in which he talks about hate and feeling lost.

Avila says many former felons commit a new crime and end up back in jail within a few years. Pancake Saturdays is designed to prevent that.

“You need somebody to be there and give you some type of love and affection and some type of brotherhood,” Avila said.

If you have that, he adds, there’s a better chance you won’t go back to prison.

McLaughlin says the goal of Pancake Saturdays is simple.

“I’d like to be better at making pancakes,” he joked. “The goal is to really make a difference.”

McLaughlin says anyone can make a difference. All it requires is a willingness to take the first step.

“Whatever it is you think a contribution can be, just make it,” McLaughlin said.

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The group fluctuates from week to week. McLaughlin hopes his Pancake Saturdays inspire others to step forward and make a positive impact in their communities.

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