CRESTVIEW — Twenty-two children know someone’s thinking of them while their parents are in prison.
St. Mark United Methodist Church donated presents to kids with parents incarcerated at nearby correctional facilities. Many of the kids’ caregivers can’t afford Christmas presents, church members said.
Prison Fellowship International, a worldwide Christian-based organization, presented the angel tree program, asking local churches to donate Christmas gifts.
PFI assigned 22 area children, ages 1 to 11, with incarcerated parents. Each child’s name, age and sex appeared on angel ornaments hanging from several Christmas trees within the church.
Throughout December, church members selected an angel ornament and bought some 80 gifts.
The response impressed program coordinator Maria Salazar.
"This church did more than was asked for," Salazar said. “We actually had people asking if there were more children to buy presents for. We simply (said) there wasn't.”
“We had more people wanting to buy gifts than we had children to distribute to,” the Rev. Lisa Ausley said.
The church invited the children and their legal guardians to a Christmas party to distribute the gifts. Each child also received a PFI-donated Bible designed for children 7-15 with incarcerated parents.
The church will continue to reach out to these families after the holidays, Salazar said.
“We have invited the families to our church and we will stay in contact with them throughout the year,” she said, noting plans for birthday and other holiday cards.
“We just want them to know, that we are still here for them,” Salazar said.
“Were hoping to make lasting connections with these families and have the opportunity to minister to them,” Ausley said.