Ministry brings Christmas to children of prisoners

December 8, 2012

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Just because Don Roath retired from being a minister doesn’t mean he has retired from ministering.

After moving to Hood County in 2011 and joining First United Methodist Church of Granbury, Roath enlisted church members to participate in the national Prison Fellowship Angel Tree Program.

The outreach is a component of the national Prison Ministry formed by Chuck Colson, a reformed member of the Watergate Seven who was known as President Richard Nixon’s “Hatchet Man.” After serving time in federal prison, Colson formed the prison ministry and won numerous honors for his work in furthering the Christian message. He died earlier this year at the age of 80.

Roath, an El Paso native, has taken on the role of Hood County’s coordinator for the Angel Tree program. This year, in addition to the 76 children in Hood County that will be served through the ministry, Roath is also handling administrative duties for 30 children in Erath County whose parents are incarcerated.

Inmates must ask to be part of the program. Volunteers then check into the family’s circumstances “to be sure everything is on the up and up,” Roath said. Gifts valued at $25 are purchased by donors who choose a child’s name from an angel tree. The gifts are presented to the children as if they are from their incarcerated parent.

Money donated to the program is dispensed through $50 gift cards that children are instructed to use to purchase gifts for family members. The money is raised primarily through special collections at the church.

“The money just comes in,” said Roath. “People’s hearts open up to kids.”

Church staffer Carolyn Geiser said that the congregation eagerly jumped on board when Roath suggested that Hood County participate in the program. The angel tree is quickly stripped of angels almost as soon as they are hung on its branches.

“Some (members) are hurt because they didn’t get an angel,” Geiser laughed.

The gifts are handed out at a volunteer-driven Christmas party. This year, the party is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 16, at First UMC, off Weatherford Highway.

Volunteers from a Sunday School class will be providing food, and popular ventriloquist Nancy Burks Worcester will provide entertainment, Roth said. The gifts will be delivered to any families unable to attend.

Roath, who coordinated the prison program in other areas during his time as a Methodist minister, said he has been told before by family members of inmates that they would have had no Christmas were it not for Prison Ministry. One child said it was the first time they realized that their incarcerated parent still loved them, Roath said.

This year, the national ministry has started including inmates from county jails, not just state prisons.

Anyone interested in helping with the project can call Geiser at the church office at 817-573-5573.

[email protected]|817-573-7066, ext. 258

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