Waco: Church hosts angel tree event for inmate families

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Unfortunately, some parents can't be with their kids Christmas morning because they're behind bars, but a local church is helping those children know 'mom and dad' still care.

First Methodist Church of Waco hosted the families of incarcerated men and women Thursday night at it's annual Angel Tree event.

First Methodist Church of Waco gave more than 400 presents to the families of 82 inmates Thursday night during church's annual Angel Tree event.

Inmates across Texas with kids in McLennan County sign their child up, then the church calls whoever is taking care of the child and asks what they want for Christmas.

"We start calling caregiver by caregiver," said Erin Ivy, Angel Tree Coordinator for First Methodist Church of Waco. "We ask for as many specifics as we can because wee want the gifts to be as personalized as possible, we want them to feel as much of a connection to the parent that's incarcerated as possible."

Each child on the list gets two gifts: a clothing item and a toy.

However, they didn't only get toys Thursday night--they got joy; there were Christmas games, crafts, karaoke, cookie decorating and more.

"We like to try to get to know their family, we encourage them to be here and make them feel welcomed," said Ivy.

At the event, the church tries to them about giving, too, by having the children give gifts to a live baby Jesus.

"Our main goal is that they somehow in this get pointed to Jesus, that they leave here feeling special and maybe feeling a little more hope than they did when they got here," said Ivy.

She says making the children feel special is the mission of the congregation.

"They're leaning into the hard places...and the reality is, is that these kids didn't choose their circumstances, and they deserve all of this, they deserve to feel special," said Ivy. "I'm so thankful for a church with a mission focused in the prison field, it's such a precious ministry."

Ivy says the church has been doing it for at least 25 years.

Once they know what the kids want, she says the gifts are written on angels that go on Christmas trees in the church foyer for two Sundays for members to go out and purchase.

"It's so heartwarming to me that people just want to serve these families," said Ivy.