The Angel Tree Project is part of a national Prison Ministry designed for an incarcerated parent to apply to have a volunteer purchase a gift suggested by the inmate for $25 or less and deliver it to the child for Christmas, along with a Christian message.
Former Prison Fellowship CEO Jim Liske notes that there are important elements ingrained in the program that volunteers should understand. “It’s very important on two levels,” Liske explains. “The first level is based on the statistics that show us when a prisoner understands that he or she is something other than a criminal, that they have another role, that they have another title that their chance of committing another crime upon their release goes down. That role is mother or father, and when they start owning that responsibility, they subsequently receive parenting training while in prison — because that is what they will be upon release … for the child. ” The second level, Liske says, “We know that 70 percent of children with an incarcerated parent will go to prison themselves without intervention. This is an intervention.”
A message from an LCC Angel Tree parent, Emmett:
“I like to thank you for the gifts you sent to my children for Christmas. I also like to thank you for the Christmas card that you sent me. It is nice to know that there is people out there willing to help. I think the Angel Tree program is a great blessing for inmates and their families. I did get a visit here from my two boys Julian and Justin. Justin was wearing a shirt that he got from your church, and he thought i came from me. It really touched my heart. A lot o people signed the card that was sent to me and please let them all know how grateful I am for what they have done. I am sure there were a lot more people involved in everything and I like to give my thanks to them too. There is only so much I can do for my kids while I am in here. It is just so great of you to help me give them something under the tree Christmas day. What you all have done really meant so much to me. I cannot thank you all enough. I hope everyone at the church ad a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. God bless you all and all of your families. Please keep my family and I in your prayers as I will keep you all in mine.”
Emmett is one of the parents whose children either did not see them at the holidays or saw them briefly in a prison visiting room because he is incarcerated. He’s made mistakes, but he is not the only person who pays for those now. His children do, too, and despite his distance from them, he loves them an wants to connect with them.
The Angel Tree program helps us do just that – connect children to their parents at the holidays. On Sundays in December the Angel Tree graces our sanctuary with the names of 60+ children and their gift requests. Individuals help by taking a name and purchasing 2 gifts – one toy and one article of clothing – at $25 for each gift. Gifts are brought to the church where volunteers deliver the gifts directly to the children the week before Christmas.