No one has to tell Michelle what prison can do to a family; she’s lived it. Her mom went to prison when Michelle was 15 years old.
But Michelle also knows that broken families and shattered dreams can be restored – like hers were through Angel Tree.
Lonely Christmas, Shattered Dreams
She’d already spent one lonely Christmas without her mother, and another was just around the corner.
Presents were out of the question, and Michelle was worried. She was the oldest. Her brother and sisters were counting on her. With both mom and dad out of the picture, she’d become the parent in the family.
It was a heavy burden for a teenager to bear.
Sometimes she’d lie awake at night and think about what might have been. Michelle had dreamed of going to college. Now, in her own words, she was “a seventh grade dropout.”
But God had not forgotten Michelle or her brothers and sisters, and neither had their mother. She was far away in prison, but her children were never far from her thoughts.
A Family Sentenced to Separation
When Michelle’s mom heard about Prison Fellowship®’s Angel Tree®, she knew it was what her children needed. She applied.
That Christmas — her second behind bars — there were presents from her for each of them under the tree.
“It helped us. It helped us a whole lot,” Michelle’s younger sister Tiffany says. Although she couldn’t be with them, Angel Tree was proof that their mom still loved them.
For Michelle, that Christmas was the Christmas her dreams were reborn. Through Angel Tree, a caring volunteer helped her find the confidence to believe in herself. She encouraged Michelle to never give up her dreams, and promised that she would be there for her college graduation.
“Angel Tree was the first time I heard about having a future,” Michelle says, “My mom never said that to me.”
Angel Tree Broke Through the Walls
Now a mom herself, Michelle went back to school, earned her GED, and is studying to become a registered nurse. She’s nearly finished with college. The life — and the family — that she dreamed of as a child are hers. When Christmas comes this year, Michelle and her family will again be part of Angel Tree.
But this year, they’ll be giving the gifts instead of receiving them.
“My gift is for a 1-year-old,” Michelle’s daughter Victoria says. “I paid for my gift myself by saving up my allowance.” Victoria says that she wants to help Angel Tree kids because, “I want them to have presents to open at Christmas, and I want them to know that their parents care about them and think about them every day.”
Her proud mom can’t help but shed a tear when she hears it. She remembers when that was exactly what she needed.