MARYSVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — For some people who are incarcerated, it can seem like there is no hope in sight, but one prison fellowship is reminding mothers who are serving time that their children are their hope.
On Saturday, the Ohio Reformatory for Women held a Prison Fellowship Angel Tree Parent Day for close to 400 of its inmates. This gave those women a chance to forget about why they were there for a few hours and focus on a bigger mission: their children.
“It’s difficult for mom being away from the family, but for children, the first year is very traumatic,” said Vanessa Franklin, national director of Field Operations for Prison Fellowship.
Franklin said as someone who was in their shoes, she knows what it’s like to feel lost and hopeless. She says it’s why Angel Tree is there for others serving time.
“Angel Tree is a ministry for prison fellowship ministries,” she said. “Those children who have incarcerated mom or dad, it gets them connected and gets them involved.”
She said the ministry provides Christmas presents on behalf of the mothers to remind the children that their mom is thinking of them. However, it’s not only about the gifts, it’s about getting them involved.
“If we don’t get involved with our children, 7 out of 10 children who have an incarcerated mom or dad will go to prison themselves,” Franklin said.
James Ackerman, president and chief executive officer of Prison Fellowship, said he wants women to know their futures are waiting when they get out.
“It’s an opportunity to actually get things right and start with a new beginning,” he said.
That mindset is what got Leah Howard out of prison. Now, she’s standing before others in hopes her story will help someone else.
“Think how many thousands of women come through these doors every year,” Howard said. “If you are incarcerated here your entire life and you were known as the prison mother or prison mentor, how many thousands of women can you touch and change their lives?”
Prison Fellowship plans to have a similar event for incarcerated fathers in the near future.