Project Angel Tree: What is it and Why It Means so Much to Me

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Have you ever had to spend a Christmas without your family? Or better yet, without your parents? Millions of children around the U.S experience just this. This year I was introduced to a wonderful organization known as the Prison Fellowship. It’s a bit hard to explain everything this organization does, but here is a little snippet:

“Prison Fellowship® trains and inspires churches and communities—inside and outside of prison—to support the restoration of those affected by incarceration. We equip correctional leaders, volunteers, and incarcerated men and women to make prisons more rehabilitative places; we advocate for a more restorative criminal justice system; and we collaborate with churches and local service providers to support former prisoners, their families, and their communities. ”

Around the holiday season, the Prison Fellowship puts on a program called Angel Tree Christmas. This program reaches out to people in the community and asks them to donate toys and gifts to children of incarcerated parents. These gifts are given to the children “from” their parents. Angel Tree has grown to become the largest national outreach specifically for the children of prisoners.

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When you have a family to spend the holidays with, we all often forget that there are people that spend the holidays alone. Imagine being 3 years old and not knowing exactly why you won’t be with your mom or dad on Christmas. Imagine waking up to zero gifts from your parents, and wondering what you did wrong. Think about the shame or heartbreak a child feels when they have to explain to their friends why they won’t be getting gifts or spending time with their parents this Christmas. When I realized that there are children that face this every year, I wanted to help. I was assigned a child and I went out that night and bought him gifts! It fills my heart to know that this child won’t go without gifts and that he’ll remember that his parents love him, even if they can’t be there for the holidays.

Getting Personal

To be honest, I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that this is something that children have to go through. Simply put, I have family members and friends who have had to spend the holidays without their loved ones due to incarceration. It kind of kills me that I was so focused on my own holiday that I forgot about them. I can tell you, after being introduced to this, I will always keep those people in mind. I will also be participating in Project Angel Tree from here on out. It’s an organization that means a lot to me, and it’s a great reminder that the holidays are about giving.

The Right Cause For You

I really want to encourage you to find a cause that means something to you this holiday season. You don’t even have to donate money to help others. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, help with a local toy drive or even help a friend wrap gifts. You don’t have to create a grand gesture to make a difference in someone else’s life. You don’t have to spend a fortune to make someone else feel good. In the past few months, Clayton and I   have donated to 3 different organizations; A local animal shelter, Project Angel Tree, and Camp Kesem (another organization close to my heart). I’m not telling you that to brag, but just to prove that you don’t have to make a ton of money or even give up a ton of time.  We’ve spent a total of $70 to help these organizations and we have a very tight budget! Plus, once you start doing things like that, you won’t want to stop! You’ll feel so good about helping others that it just comes naturally. I can promise you that it is the ultimate mood boost!

So what organizations do you support around the holidays? What are your favorites that you want me to check out? Can’t wait to hear from you!

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