Angel Tree program provides gifts to prisoners' kids
12/23/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
A UMTV report is also available.
By Kim Riemland*
SHELBY, N.C. (UMNS) - Stanley Petty would love to have the
holiday stress so many people complain about, like navigating crowded
malls in search of the right gift, or staying up late to bake treats and
But Petty will spend another Christmas in prison, another year locked up for poor choices that he regrets.
"I got twisted up and always have been in drugs," he said. "I've chased an easy life, and it's cost me dearly."
is doing time at Cleveland Correctional Center, a medium-security
prison in Shelby, N.C., for a felony drug conviction; he isn't due for
release until 2008.
Petty isn't the only one paying the price for
his crimes. His 10-year-old son and 14-year- old daughter will spend
another Christmas without their dad.
"I've neglected them, basically all of their life," Petty said. "I've been in and out of the penitentiary."
members all over the country are reaching out to the children of
inmates through a program called Angel Tree Christmas, offered by Prison
The youth group at Aldersgate United
Methodist Church in Shelby is participating in the program this year.
Members collected the wish lists of children of area inmates. They did
all the shopping and wrapping, and will deliver gifts on behalf of the
"Myself, personally, I couldn't imagine being
away from my parents during Christmas time," said Kelsey Wagner, 15. " I
imagine it's hard, especially for little kids."
Since it began
in 1982, Angel Tree Christmas has touched an estimated 6 million
children's lives through the participation of thousands of churches,
according to Prison Fellowship Ministries, an organization founded in
1976 by Chuck Colson. Colson, a former aide to President Richard Nixon,
served seven months in prison in the mid-1970s for an obstruction of
justice conviction related to the Watergate scandal.
Fellowship estimates that about 2 million U.S. children have at least
one parent behind bars. Statistics show children with a parent in prison
are more likely to be incarcerated themselves someday.
don't teach them the love of God now, when they are children, we'll be
taking care of them while they're troubled adults," said the Rev. Pat
Tiffany, pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church.
"Without this Angel Tree, there is nothing I could give them in my present situation," Petty said.
being a father that I can't be right now," said fellow inmate Nathan
Crawford, who is also serving time for drug-related crimes. Without the
Angel Tree program, his two girls probably wouldn't receive gifts, he
"They love it," Crawford said of the program. "They've been asking about it since before Thanksgiving."
is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he told us to care for the
widows and the orphans," Tiffany said. "These are the orphans of our
Petty faces several more Christmases away from his
daughter and son. He said he's glad for the Angel Tree program, which
enables him to show his kids that he loves them.
"I think this is a positive thing that society has allowed me to do in order to help my family, and I'm grateful for it."
# # #
*Riemland is a UMNS correspondent based in Seattle. Nancye Willis at United Methodist Communications contributed to this report.
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