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ANGELS IN WAYNEDALE

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The Christmas season is upon us and that holiday spirit is in full force-toys are flying off the shelves, fruit is being sold by the box full, money is being dropped into the traditional red kettle in front of the Walgreens store. And, throughout Waynedale special Christmas trees offer help for a family or child in need.

One of those special trees is called an "Angel Tree". You see, a child is often forgotten during Christmas when their parent is in prison. Angel Trees see to it that prisoners' children are not forgotten. The trees are decorated with gift tags listing a child's age and their wishes. One of those special trees is found at The Waynedale United Methodist Church.

This year Tamara Jackson will lead the Angel Tree volunteers. "Christmas can be a lonely time for these kids," said Tamara's father Ken Jackson, also retired pastor of the church. "A couple of weeks ago 125 gift tags were placed on our Angel Tree and as you can see people are responding quickly". Church volunteers will meet and organize the gift giving. Then, on Sunday, December 21st those collected gifts for children 0-15 years of age will be distributed to each home along with the message of the goods news of Jesus. "We're not just Santa Claus," said Pastor Jackson, "we won't leave until The Story is told."

Angel Tree started in Alabama in 1982, and has since gone nationwide, as part of the Prison Fellowship ministry. Last year, 13,398 churches participated, and gifts were presented to 586,474 boys and girls-that is about 32% of all children of incarcerated parents in the United States.

Prison chaplains like Richard Seivers of the Allen County Jail, take applications from prisoners early in the year, and distribute them to Angel Tree programs where the children live. Parents of Waynedale area participants are in prison not only in Indiana, but, as far away as California or Texas.

Every Angel Tree volunteer is asked to provide one clothing item and one toy or fun item for a child, with a note stating that the gifts are from the child's parent in prison.

Gestures of good will and the nature of giving is part of the holiday spirit in Waynedale as area children will have toys to open this Christmas and warm meals will be on the tables of several homes thanks to the generosity of these "special" trees and angels in Waynedale.

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