Angel Tree Responds to Families' Needs During COVID-19
In the current global health crisis, those in prison and their families face unique challenges. Behind bars, access to traditional programming is limited due to increased safety measures. Prison closures limit most family contact to phone or video calls, and the added sense of separation can take a toll. In this critical time, Prison Fellowship® remains committed to serving those affected by crime and incarceration however possible.
Life doesn't stop for COVID-19, and neither will Angel Tree's mission to spread hope.
ANGEL TREE RESPONDS TO COVID-19
Our Angel Tree® program is part of the ongoing effort, not only providing a gift and the Gospel to prisoners' children at Christmas, but also supporting families in meaningful ways all year. Staff are making daily phone calls directly to Angel Tree families to offer encouragement and prayer. Families have many prayer needs, from health concerns to financial stress to reentry support for loved ones.
To offer practical support, the team recently mailed special care packages to Angel Tree families. Packages contained a generous grocery store gift card, a Gospel presentation, a sports ball, and a Bible. Each package also included a note to caregivers to say, "We want you to know that we are praying for you. You matter to us, and we want you to know that we are in this together.'"
So far, Angel Tree has shipped 2,320 care packages for the first phase of the campaign. This encouragement comes at a time when many Angel Tree children would have been getting ready to pack their bags for a week of camp. Angel Tree Camping® partners with Christian camps across the U.S. by providing scholarships for children with incarcerated parents. Often, camp provides a week of respite for caregivers and a haven for children to just have fun.
"The things these families have shared with me have been unbelievable. Trauma in the home," says Teresa Stanfield, Prison Fellowship field director in Oklahoma. "It's such a blessing to be able to share hope and let people know that they aren't forgotten … [One woman I spoke with] actually lives in my town. Once all this is over, I want to invite her to church with me or maybe Celebrate Recovery."
SERVING DURING THE PANDEMIC
Karin Arango, an Angel Tree field director in California, has been gathering free, kid-friendly activities and resources—a huge need for caregivers as they navigate virtual schooling and stay-at-home orders. She says families are also praying that their loved ones would be eligible for early release, for their own protection. Because of their close quarters, the incarcerated population is at high risk for contracting COVID-19.
If a call goes to voicemail, Karin leaves a thoughtful message: Angel Tree is still here to serve. Serving in practical ways—and simply listening—often opens doors for deeper conversations.
One caregiver burst into tears as soon as she answered a call from Jorge Garcia, Angel Tree program manager of Spanish church engagement. She expressed anxiety for her incarcerated son's health and the wellbeing of the grandchildren she is raising. Jorge prayed with her over the phone. By the end of the call, she had accepted Jesus as her savior.
Garcia says, "She was so happy that Angel Tree is still active even through this time of the coronavirus."
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