WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa has more than 8,000 inmates currently housed in Iowa’s nine prisons, many of whom have children at home. During the holidays, that can be difficult.
Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines is working this year to help fill the void by partnering with the Angel Tree Program. The program allows churches to work with parents in prison to get their child a gift and deliver it for the holidays.
“The vision for Angel Tree is there would be a local church that could serve the families in their community. Well, the Des Moines area is already covered because there are a lot of local churches who partner with this. So we said ‘well where are the spots in Iowa where a local church isn’t able to step in?’ They said there are over 100 families throughout Iowa who don’t have a local church that can do this. So we said ‘ok let’s do this.’ Now the whole state of Iowa is now covered, not because of what our church has done, but we are a small piece of what a lot of churches are doing,” Justin Stoffa said.
Hope’s Powerlife program that consists of middle school-age kids helped purchase gifts, write personalized notes from the parents in prison, and wrap it up and send it off. This way the child believes it was their mom or dad who was able to give them this gift.
While the main goal was to help out those kids in need, the students who participated say they learned a valuable lesson as well.
“I’m pretty lucky to not have a parent in prison and getting to see both of my parents. So I get gifts from both of them. It was special to me because I got to wrap a gift for that child and make their Christmas really special for them,” Sophie Tinkey, a Van Meter sixth-grader said.