For 2.7 million children in the U.S., Christmas is spent separated from a parent who is in prison. While other children squeal with joy as they unwrap presents, these children may be wrapped in shame from their parents’ crimes. Fortunately, charities exist that keep the bond strong between incarcerated parents and their children during the holiday season.
Angel Tree, an initiative of Prison Fellowship, is among them.
Founded over 30 years ago by former prisoner Chuck Colson, of Watergate infamy, Angel Tree is the largest U.S. outreach specifically targeted to children of prisoners. For the one in 28 children who have a parent in jail, this can mean countering the disconnect, abandonment and loneliness they face.
Angel Tree’s model is simple: Sponsors buy a present for a prisoner’s child and donate it to the child in the prisoner’s name. This allows the child to feel loved and remembered by the parent, something that can help them avoid traveling the same road. Churches sign up to host Angel Trees, which are placed on display with children’s names and Christmas wishes. Volunteers choose a nametag, buy and wrap the present and then give the present to the inmate’s child in the inmate’s name. It’s that easy.
Angel Tree also offers initiatives to care for these children all through the year, both in supporting their attendance at summer camps and pairing them with mentors. Such role models help keep these vulnerable children from falling into a life of crime.
Participating in the Angel Tree program costs between $15 and $25 per child, but it is invaluable to the child who receives the gift.
Want to support this amazing charity? You can donate on Angel Tree’s website or find a participating church nearby.