An estimated 2.3 million children in the United States have a mom or dad in prison. Angel Tree recognizes their needs and each Christmas brings gifts to nearly 500,000 children nationwide.

“This massive effort cannot be done successfully without the hundreds of thousands of volunteers and churches who contribute,” said national Christmas director Vickie Thornhill.

In Ellis County alone, there are more than 250 children of incarcerated parents registered for the Angel Tree program.

“In order for the children of prisoners to successfully receive gifts in their parent’s name, more churches must participate in the Angel Tree process,” Thornhill said. “It can be difficult to meet all of the families needs when a participating church does not exist in the area.”

When more churches and volunteers become involved, many more families are able to experience reconciliation at Christmas through the gifts from their incarcerated parents, she said.

Angel Tree is a ministry of Prison Fellowship that reaches out to the children and families of prisoners, said Prison Fellowship founder, Chuck Colson, noting that the organization gives imprisoned parents an opportunity to show their concern for their children by asking that the gifts be given on his or her behalf.

“Over the years, God has orchestrated some wonderful family reunions through Angel Tree,” Colson said.

“Angel Tree has been so important for my children and a blessing to me,” said Nakitha Kendrick, who has personally experienced the ministries of the organization through her two daughters, Shaniquah and Deontae. “There are lots of mothers out there, like me, who don’t know how Christmas will even be possible. When the children receive the gifts, it really does make them feel special, like someone does care.”

Since 1982, Angel Tree has become active in all 50 states and has given about 14 million gifts to more than 7.5 million children of prisoners worldwide.

“Thank-you Daddy, I love you so much,” were the words of a prisoner’s son after the gifts were delivered.

A 13-year-old-volunteer also shared her thoughts: “Angel Tree has influenced me a great deal. It touched my life and I am looking forward to doing it again next year,” she said.

“The children of prisoners in your community often have no one to advocate for them; they are isolated and forgotten and in many cases destined to follow their parents to prison without the loving intervention of caring people in their communities,” a spokesman said. “In Ellis County the need is urgent.”

Those wanting to help - individuals, church groups or churches - are asked to contact Angel Tree to find out how to assist these children this Christmas.

More information is available online at www.angeltree.org or by calling (800) 655-3787.