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Angel Tree Christmas delivers love to the children

“Love is the real gift that keeps on giving. I love you, son. Dad”

When I lifted the paper angel from the tree, I read this message written along the bottom. It made a bulls-eye for the heart as the situation dawned. I took another one.

“May your Christmas be filled with wonder, love, and joy. Love, Daddy”

I thought of my own dad and wished I could call him that to his face right then.

These dads wouldn’t be donning Santa hats and handing out gifts in their living room this year. They wouldn’t see the smiles or even know what the present contained until possibly later. These men acted on an opportunity from behind prison walls to provide the most loving Christmas connection possible with their sons.

The chaplain at the correctional facility had registered with Prison Fellowship. From there, the incarcerated parent signed up with the Angel Tree Christmas program in order to have gifts delivered to the children in his absence.

Local churches register with Prison Fellowship for the program, which sends angel ornaments, each with a name of the inmate’s child along with a message from the parent and a gift suggestion. This is grace in action, and it feels good.

Since I have no grandchildren or small ones in my life at the moment, I thought it would be fun to wander the toy department aisles again, buy a few goodies and wrap them for these little ones who would be missing their dads. Then I baked cookies for the family and delivered the goods. It was my first time getting involved with this particular program.

I don’t know or care how Mom or Dad ended up where they are. I don’t need to know because this is about unconditional love. They have already faced judgement, and it’s not my job. Now was the time for them to see good in action and find hope for a better future. I could rally around that.

Yesterday, I made my first delivery of two beautifully wrapped gifts (not by me, though my examples do surpass those former grocery bag winners for which Dad was famous), two stacks of cookies, and a box of treats for the family. Unfortunately, the kids for whom I had the presents weren’t home, but their aunt and four of her grandkids greeted us. I realized once more that there are wonderful, giving souls who go unnoticed in the froth of personal activity — those who willingly sacrifice their time and space for a gaggle of noisy, messy, and fun little ones in need.

A baby doll named Bella was offered up to me, so I cuddled her and wished them all a Merry Christmas. They looked happy. They had one another, and they had hope.

I had two more deliveries to make before Christmas, each one different from the last, I’m sure. The unpredictability is part of the adventure, and I believe I may be hooked.

It’s important to note that not all correctional facilities offer Prison Fellowship to inmates. The chaplain or spiritual advisor decides for each location. Unfortunately, every year brings a greater need for this outreach. According to the Prison Fellowship website, there are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison. They are working hard with churches to make sure these children are not overlooked members of society.

So, thank you to Prison Fellowship, Trail Fellowship, and to all the parents in prison this Christmas who reach beyond the prison bars with a practical expression of their love and concern for their little ones. Here’s to a brighter future on the other side, and may Christmas meet you where you are.

— Peggy Dover is a freelance writer living in Eagle Point. Email her at pcdover@hotmail.com.