Baltimore Booking’s Mother Theresa
A visitor approaches the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center looking for Correctional Officer Sharhonda Gee.
“Oh,” Security Chief Tyrell Wilson says. “You’re looking for Mother Theresa.”
Sure enough, the 12-year correctional officer is on the steps of the facility leading a troop of fellow officers feeding hundreds of area homeless for the third year straight. The next week, she directs another platoon to a West Baltimore school, where booking staff provide presents to poor kids.
Gee inquired how many students needed gifts and the principal said about 10. Gee then asked how many students were in the school and recruited booking staff to donate to them all: 130.
“You just can’t do 10,” Gee said.
She led staff in raising $5,000 for the Susan G. Koman Foundation for breast cancer after having a scare herself and hearing about colleague’s whose mothers or grandmothers faced or struggled with the illness. The staff raised the money through everything from bake sales to bowling nights.
“Everything runs through your mind,” said Gee, 35. “You think ‘what if I have it?’ It could’ve been me.”
Gee credits her care for others to her mother, Vanessa McFadden, who she said led by example. McFadden works for RICA-Baltimore, part of the Maryland Department of Health that provides treatment and education programs for adolescent boys and girls aged 12 to 17 who are experiencing emotional, behavioral and learning problems.
“My mom does things like that,” said Gee, a mother of three. “She works for Catholic Charities on the weekend, is always donating to the Red Cross and other organizations.”
A former booking center warden noticed Gee raising money for colleagues who lost a loved one. She recommended that she join the department’s Building Employee Spirit as a Team (BEST) committee which does the same for the entire department.
Once on the committee, Gee set a goal for the booking center to win the coveted BEST Trophy for raising the most money of any facility in the February BEST Buck contest. The booking center has won two years in a row under Gee’s coordination, raising over $1,200.
She even woke up at to reach out to the transportation unit team at roll call at 4:48 – a.m. Gee’s reward from all the benevolence is the reaction of the recipients, she said.
“I just like giving back,” she said. “It makes you feel good. Just seeing the kindness on people’s face, it just warms your heart.”
Being as state correctional officer has become a family affair for Gee. She married her husband, Sgt. Mikell Gee, who also works at the booking center, after they met in their academy class. Though she has a soft heart, Gee has a reputation for strictness when it comes to order in the facility.
“You have to be strict but you have to have a heart,” Gee said. “You need to be able to separate the two.”
Gee was working as a nurse when someone recommended she join corrections, which she considers not just a job but a career.
“I was scared,” Gee said. “But it’s a good career but like any career, it’s what you make it.”
Gee enjoys trying to steer detainees she manages toward better life choices, she said.
“I feel like I can sway people in the right direction,” she says. “I can bring them over to my side.”
At Christmas, Gee coordinates turning the lobby into a Candy Land with decorations so that booking employees can bring in their children to see Santa.
Gee hopes that her charity efforts present correctional officers in a better light than they are portrayed in the media when someone commits a wrong.
Gee raises so much money in the facility that she jokes that some colleagues walk the other way when they see her coming or quickly blurt out “I don’t have any money.” Gee, however, humbly acknowledges that she could not make an impact without the help of the generous booking center staff.
“A lady just asked me ‘what’s next Gee?’” she said. “They always say they’re going to file me on their taxes as a charity.”