By Caleb Mynatt, The Belton Journal
With Christmas fast approaching, the gift buying season is at hand. Moms and dads, grandparents and kids, and aunts and uncles alike will all begin to purchase gifts, wrap them tightly in the most decorative wrapping paper available, and stick them under the tree, just beckoning to be torn open on Christmas morning is one of the most wonderful family experiences one can have. Christmas is indeed a wonderful time for family to share not only gifts, but to come together as one and share time with one another. This, however, does not hold true with many children in Bell County and across the nation. Some children don’t get to be with their parents on Christmas, let alone receive a present from them. For children of parents in jail, Christmas can be bittersweet. In Bell County, however, there are plans to help these children have the best Christmas they can have, in the form of a program called The Angel Tree.
“The Angel Tree is a program that has been in place for 16 years now,” said Jeanette Kelley, a leader in The Angel Tree. “Through the combined forces of churches in this area, as well as the J.A.I.L Ministry. The hope is to get gifts to the children of Bell County who have parents that have been incarcerated, so that they too may have a great Christmas, and have a gift from their parents.”
Headed by First Baptist Church of Belton, but assisted by so many churches around the area, The Angel Tree is one of the biggest annual projects that occur in Bell County. It is one of the most successful ones as well.
“Last year we helped bring gifts to 1700 children in Bell County alone,” said Kelley. “The reach of this project can even go outside of Bell County too. We ship gifts nationally, because you never know where these kids of these incarcerated parents might be.”
The Angel Tree does a lot of good for children everywhere, regardless of socioeconomic status, and the location of their current residence. The Angel Tree acts as a way for a child to receive a present from their parent that they may not be able to see very often. The project is less about the tangible gift, and more the thought behind it.
“It’s important to note that we give children gifts in place of their parents, and receiving that gift can make them so happy. That means that these gifts don’t necessarily go to just children in poverty, but it will go to help the child receive a gift from their parents for Christmas. It’s good to remember that these kids affected by incarceration are not necessarily poor in wealth, but not being able to see their parent is hard. Receiving a gift from their parent is amazing for them,” said Kelley.
The Angel Tree helps not only the kids of parents who have been incarcerated have a good Christmas, but also goes to assist another group, too.
“Another group that we aim to help are CASA children, which are children that have been abused or neglected. The Angel Tree seeks to give them gifts as well, as they may not live with their parents anymore. These children have had a negative experience in their household, and it’s certainly not their fault, so a gift is a wonderful thing for them to receive,” said Kelley.
As for how to get involved, it’s as simple as a trip to a local church, and then a store.
“There are sister churches that are involved, but the main place to go would be First Baptist Church in Belton. There are tags there to pick up, and they have information about the child and what they might like. The person then is the sponsor for that child, and goes and buys a gift. We ship on the 15th, so the absolute latest day to drop of gifts would be December the 12th. If someone wanted to just donate money to buy a gift for a non-sponsored child, they could ship a donation to P.O Box 634, which is the J.A.I.L Ministry’s P.O Box,” said Kelley.
With Project Angel Tree already underway, it’s not too late to get involved. All gifts will go to help children that need it most, and to have a great Christmas. For more information, contact Jeanette Kelley at 254-718-4514