Connecting incarcerated parents and their kids, one gift and letter at a time

This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference from our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.

When a child has a parent who’s incarcerated, it’s a difficult ordeal, especially during the holidays.

In this country, over two million people will be spending the holidays behind bars, according to The Sentencing Project, an organization that advocates for humane responses to crime.

The Prison Fellowship Angel Tree program tries to ease the burden that families face when a mother or father is in prison. It gives churches an opportunity to help support the relationship between incarcerated parents and children.

Marie Randolph Wright, the coordinator for the Angel Tree program at the Church of the Redeemer in Washington, D.C., said the incarcerated parents sign children up for the program, then the church receives the names of children.

Marie Randolph Wright works to strengthen the bonds between an incarcerated parent and their children. (WTOP/Stephanie Gaines-Bryant)

The church distributes the children’s names to church members who provide gifts for them in the names of the incarcerated parents. Wright said the church has been involved with Angel Tree program for 20 years.

Along with a gift, the children receive a letter from the parent, “so that the child will know that the parent still loves him, cares about him and is interested in what’s going in his life,” Wright said.

Wright said the letters usually contain wishes for a Merry Christmas and parents may share plans that they have for each child’s future. But, Wright said the three most important words in each letter are, “I love you.”

The Angel Tree Program also partners with churches to offers activities year round such as summer camps. To find out more, visit the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree’s website.

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant is an Anchor and Reporter for WTOP. Over the past 20 years, Stephanie has worked in several markets, including Baltimore, Washington, Houston and Charleston, holding positions ranging from newscaster to morning show co-host.

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