Church tries to help kids with parents in prison
When parents go to prison, it strains their relationships with their children.
Around the holidays, the problem is acute.
For the past decade, church members at First Baptist Church in Craig have worked to strengthen the bonds between incarcerated parents and their children.
Through the Prison Fellow–ship Angel Tree program, First Baptist gives Christmas presents to children who have a parent in jail.
“The point is to maintain a relationship between parents and children,” LuAnn Kline said. Kline coordinated the Angel Tree program at First Baptist until this year, when she handed it over to a group of church members.
Last year, church members gave 68 gifts to 34 local children through the program.
This year, First Baptist had a list of 24 local children with parents in jail who needed Christmas gifts.
But the church also learned there are 3,000 children in the state who need help, so members volunteered to ship gifts to 26 more children, Kline said.
“I just can’t imagine what it must be like to be a parent who is in prison and not able to do anything for your child at Christmas,” Kline said.
Incarcerated parents nominate their children through Prison Fellowship, a Christian outreach group that works with inmates. Prisoners tell the program how old their children are and what type of gifts they would like.
Children get two gifts –ne of clothes and another for fun.
Nominations are sent to churches in the children’s hometowns.
Churchgoers buy the presents and donate them at the local churches.
Usually, the gifts are delivered already wrapped, but this year, First Baptist asks that gifts be delivered unwrapped, Kline said.
On Dec. 11, the church will have a gift-wrapping party.
Len Browning is one of the church members who took over the project from Kline this year. Along with Rob and Kelley Sexton, Browning is coordinating the project.
“I think a consistent theme in the New Testament is that God cares about people in prison and widows and orphans,” Browning said. “I think it makes sense for who we are as a church.”
To donate to the Angel Tree program at First Baptist, call the church, 824-5926.
Nationwide, the Angel Tree program has given out about 14 million gifts since the program’s inception in 1982, said Michelle Farmer, spokeswoman for the Prison Fellowship.
This year, program organizers hope to give out 550,000 gifts, Farmer said.
Since Angel Tree started 20 years ago, it has spread from a Christmas program to include a camping program and mentoring for children whose parents are in jail.
“We don’t want to just touch these children one time per year,” Farmer said. “We want to touch their lives year round.”
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