Through Angel Tree, Reggie reconnects with his children from prison—and encourages other dads too.
In 2022, the number of Angel Tree® applications at the Dick Connor Correctional Institute in Hominy, Oklahoma, tripled that of the previous year. A large part of the reason for this increase is a prisoner named Reggie, who knows firsthand the emotional pain faced by incarcerated dads.
“It's hard being a parent behind these walls,” he says. “You're not there when they really need you.”
Reggie is the proud father of two boys and two girls, ranging in age from 10 to 20. He was happily involved in their lives until a criminal conviction led to his incarceration in 2015.
“Because of my flawed decision-making skills, I was removed from that life,” Reggie says. “Next morning, they wake up looking for Daddy. Daddy's gone.”
HEALING THE BROKENNESS
Like many other dads in prison, Reggie struggled to find a way to stay connected with his kids, particularly at Christmastime. When he found out about Prison Fellowship Angel Tree®, which strengthens relationships between incarcerated parents and their children, Reggie was eager to sign up. Through Angel Tree, he discovered that he could provide his children with gifts at Christmastime through local church volunteers. Reggie also learned that Angel Tree could offer opportunities for his kids to participate in camps and other activities throughout the year.
Reggie says that Angel Tree has helped to “rebuild the brokenness that [my kids] experienced with me leaving their life.”
When his children receive gifts from him on Christmas morning, Reggie says it sends a clear message: ‘Daddy is locked up, but he hasn't forgotten about me. He's still reaching out to me.’"
ENCOURAGING OTHER DADS
Reggie now serves as a chapel clerk in his facility, where he persuades other prisoners to sign up for Angel Tree. One of his responsibilities is helping to host Angel Tree parent days at the prison. At these events, Reggie shares his story and explains to his fellow residents how Angel Tree can help them reconnect with their children.
“A lot of times, men come to prison, and they're not involved with their kids,” Reggie says. “I encourage every man to be in their children's lives because, in reality, the child didn't ask to be here.”
At last year’s parent day event, Reggie gave presentations to six different groups over the course of two days. As a result of his efforts, along with those of other volunteers and chaplain staff, more than 100 Angel Tree applications were submitted, up from an average of 20–30 in previous years.
OPPORTUNITIES AND BLESSINGS
While Reggie has been busy serving other dads behind bars, Angel Tree has been a blessing to his children in multiple ways. His 12-year-old daughter Reaginae appreciates the gift she received with a message from her dad through Angel Tree last Christmas.
“It was good, getting a gift from my dad,” she says. “It just made me feel happy.”
Earlier in the year, Reaginae also had the opportunity to participate in a basketball sports camp for Angel Tree kids held at Oklahoma City’s Paycom Center. At this special event, she received training from professional coaches and former WNBA player Betty Lennox.
Reggie deeply appreciates the fact that his children have access to opportunities like this.
“They gave out basketballs, and they gave out gym shoes,” he recalls. “They didn't have a size for her, but then they got her information, and they still sent the shoes to her several weeks later. It's things like that … just shows the love of God.”
Reggie looks forward to one day being able to volunteer for Angel Tree when he leaves prison.
“One day, I'm going to be out of this place,” he says. “And I want to be able to give back the same way that I have received … it's a ministry that I want to be a part of once I'm released, to be able to give gifts to someone else's children.”
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