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‘Angel Tree’ Program aims to help ‘hurting’ children

November 13, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — A new program to unwrap the Christmas joy is coming to the area this season.

Angel Tree, a program of Prison Fellowship, is being sponsored by the First Baptist Church in Scottsbluff.

Carissa Smith, who’s heading up Angel Tree locally, said it’s a replacement for Operation Christmas Child, which had operated locally for numerous years.

But when the program moved its collection center to Alliance this year, the Scottsbluff center was no longer needed.

After doing some research, the First Baptist staff chose to become involved with the Angel Tree program. Its mission is to share the hope of Christ with “hurting” children in our local community — children that may feel abandoned and lonely from having a mom or dad in prison.

That hurt can be felt especially around the holiday season. And about 2.7 million children in the U.S. are living it.

“We like the fact we get to meet the children,” Smith said. “These are kids that aren’t being reached by anyone locally.”

The incarcerated parent can sign up their child for the program. The names then appear on tags hanging on the Angel Tree at First Baptist Church, 3009 Ave. I in Scottsbluff.

The public is invited to pick a name from the tree and purchase a gift for the child. Then Angel Tree is available at the church on Nov. 14 from 5-7 p.m., Nov. 15-16 from 9 a.m.-noon, and Nov. 17 from 10 a.m.-noon.

The tag also has the name of a toy the child has requested. People are asked to pick up the toy, wrap it with the tag on the outside, and return it to the church by Dec. 9.

Smith said they’re planning an open house for children to receive their gifts, although a firm date hasn’t been established.

The program, part of Prison Fellowship, reaches out with God’s love to children and families of incarcerated parents, helping meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Although this is the first year locally for the Angel Tree program, Smith said it’s been well-received at both the church and in the community.

“The YMCA preschool is also involved and they’ve put up a mini tree where the children can participate there,” she said.

Prison Fellowship has served more than eight million children around the country in its long history. However, there has never been a local center until now. In past years, local children in the program had their gifts mailed to them.

“We have 74 names of local children on the tree,” Smith said. “There’s a large need here to reach out to them with God’s love.”

More information on the Angel Tree program is available by calling Smith at 308-631-9674.

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