CHARLES COLSON HOPE AWARDS
2016 RESTORER OF HOPE HONOREE
MARY KAY BEARD
The Charles Colson Restorer of Hope award is bestowed annually on a person who, with sustained compassion for the terrible weight borne by the families of the incarcerated, has come alongside to help carry their burden, share God’s love, and offer hope for restoration.
The Restorer of Hope award goes to a person who, with sustained compassion for the terrible weight borne by the families of the incarcerated, has come alongside to help carry their burden, share God’s love, and offer hope for restoration. No one exemplifies that better than our inaugural award winner, Mary Kay Beard, whom we honor posthumously this year after her passing in April 2016.
After her own release from prison, Mary Kay joined the staff of Prison Fellowship as the director for her home state of Alabama. Remembering the mothers she had met during her incarceration, who carefully saved items like soap and socks in order to have something to give to their children during Christmas visits, Mary Kay created the Angel Tree program from scratch. She visited prisoners to learn what they would want to give to their children. Then she cut out paper angels, placed them on the tree at a local mall, and invited shoppers to help provide Christmas gift for prisoners’ children. The rest, as they say, is history.
More than 30 years later, millions of relationships have been restored and strengthened through Angel Tree, and entire families have been transformed through the presentation of the Gospel and the care of faithful, local congregations. Through her legacy, Mary Kay has lightened the load borne by an incalculable number of families—and given them hope for the future. The ministry estimates that more than 10 million gifts have been given to children on behalf of their incarcerated parents.
Mary Kay understood that when parents become prisoners, they retain their love and concern for their children. By creating Angel Tree, she helped them restore and strengthen their relationships with their sons and daughters. She respected their ongoing dignity as parents. In fact, the dignity of prisoners and their families was always at the core of Angel Tree. Prisoners were deeply grateful to her for giving them a pathway to reconnect with their families. When Mary Kay spoke at an Easter event with Chuck Colson in 2011, prisoners leapt to their feet and almost tore the roof off the prison gymnasium with their cheers and applause.
Mary Kay also involved countless other people in the ministry to prisoners’ families, equipping them to fulfill their potential. She wisely helped make volunteers and churches the central vehicle for ministry delivery, so that they would develop a heart for prisoners’ families and the greater picture of prison ministry. Thanks to her legacy, thousands upon thousands of churches have discovered that prison ministry is a core part of Gospel-centered presence in their local communities.
Patty, Christian, Wendell, and Emily Colson takes great joy in nominating Mary Kay for the Restorer of Hope Award. In their nomination, they wrote, “We have a tender place in our hearts for the ministry of Angel Tree, which seeks to bless the children that society sometimes excludes, and for its founder, Mary Kay Beard, who died this year. Through our late husband and father, Chuck Colson, it was our privilege to know this extraordinary lady from Alabama, and because she has helped restore hope to millions, it is the Colson family’s profound honor to nominate her posthumously for this award.”
CHARLES COLSON HOPE AWARDS
The Charles Colson Hope Awards, sponsored by Prison Fellowship, recognize people who have faithfully and courageously worked to restore those affected by crime and incarceration. Charles Colson, who founded Prison Fellowship 40 years ago, was at ease with presidents, prisoners, wardens, pastors, laypeople, and legislators. In all times and places, he was a passionate advocate for incarcerated men and women, and their families, sharing his faith in the Gospel and honoring the God-given value and potential of each person. His impact on prison ministry, prison culture, and prison reform has been broad and lasting. In keeping with his inspiring legacy, the Charles Colson Hope Awards honor people who, in following his example, have been role models to others and brought restoration through their sphere of influence.