JACKSON – Sunday afternoon, more than 600 kids received early Christmas gifts through the Angel Tree for Children of Incarcerated Parents.
The program was started by Pauline Rogers, an ex con, who wanted to give back to the prison ministry that once helped her. It has been going on for 25 years now. Those children who have parents locked up can come and get a bag of gifts for Christmas through the Angel Tree.
"This is a God send for those families, you gotta think these kids are already going through it, they're absent from their parents, they didn't choose it but they get pushed to the side because they get punished for the parents sins or wrongdoings," said Rogers.
Families were lined up out the door of New Horizon International Church where the annual event was held. The families chosen from a list comprised by the National Prison Fellowship Organization and then filtered by volunteers from the church and Jackson State Alumni.
Catrina Cooper, a single parent of four said something like this is a huge help especially around the holidays.
"It makes me feel good that people are still out and still able to help people who are struggling and having a little more of a harder time right now so I'm just very thankful," Cooper explained.
There are more than 6,500 children who have incarcerated parents in Mississippi, 3,700 in Jackson alone. The kids received bags filled with toiletries, clothes, shoes and toys.
"My kids received a pillow pad, they got books, they love to read, just different little toys, somebody got a ninja toy, puzzles," said Cooper.
Volunteers say giving back is what Christmas is really about.
"It's so rewarding just to see the children come in and get the gift, it's so fulfilling, this is my third year and this has been the biggest crowd that we've had," said Patricia Hickman, a member of New Horizon International Church and the Jackson State Alumni director at the church.
Organizers say this is the most kids they've helped in the 25 years of hosting the giveaway. All of the items are donated by World Vision International Organization.
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