Angel Tree ®
How Angel Tree® Began
After serving time in prison, Mary Kay Beard finished her education and began working for Prison Fellowship in the United States, but she never forgot the faces of the children who would visit their mothers in prison. At Christmas time, their mothers would wrap small toiletry items, such as soap or toothpaste, to give to the children, since they had no other gifts for them. Sympathizing for both the prisoners and their children, Mary Kay sought the local community’s help in purchasing Christmas gifts for the children of prisoners. She found that people were eager to help these often forgotten victims of crime, and so the Angel Tree® project was born in 1982. The concept quickly took root in Prison Fellowship ministries all over the world, and now more than 400,000 children are touched by Angel Tree® in 100 countries.
How Angel Tree® Works
Members of local churches volunteer to purchase gifts for individual children, based on the information that PF volunteers and prison chaplains gather from their caregivers. The gifts are then presented to the children as being from their incarcerated parent, usually with a card expressing that parent’s love. The Angel Tree® programme goes a long way to strengthen that fragile bond between children and their mothers or fathers who are separated from them, and it demonstrates the Gospel’s message of love in a tangible way.
Angel Tree® has since expanded to include year-round activities for children. Many national Prison Fellowship ministries sponsor camps, back-to-school programmes, and mentoring for prisoners’ children.
The desire to meet the needs of these children has opened a floodgate of concern by PF national ministries around the world. In addition to their ministry directly with prisoners, over 85% of PF national ministries run a wide variety of programmes serving over thousands of children and family members of prisoners. These programmes include family visitation, children’s homes, children and youth camps, drug and crime prevention programmes, and the widely used Christmas Angel Tree® programme. These ministry activities are carried out with the goal to assist and minister to prisoners’ children, and help break the cycle of crime by sharing with them the love of Jesus Christ.