Angel Tree opportunity grows
First Free has its best chance ever to make Christmas brighter for kids who have an incarcerated parent.
Jim Killam
November 16, 2022

When you spot the familiar Angel Tree in our church lobby on Sunday, you may notice something.

It’s bigger.

That’s because First Free has embraced the program so enthusiastically in recent years that this Christmas we’re taking on more local kids than ever – 85 in all. Organizers literally needed a bigger tree to hold all of the gift tags.

Angel Tree Christmas, sponsored by Prison Fellowship, delivers gifts and a gospel message to kids on behalf of their incarcerated parent. Beginning this Sunday, Nov. 27, you can select a child’s tag from the Christmas tree in the lobby. The tag will have the child’s name, age and a few other details to help you shop. Sign the sheet so we have all tags accounted for. Then, purchase a gift (the suggested amount is $20 to $25) and bring it back to the church by Tuesday, Dec. 13. Gifts will be sorted and packed that week, then delivered Saturday, Dec. 17.

For the past six years, Sue and Andy Schumacher’s “Delighting in God” life group has coordinated Angel Tree for our church. Sue handles the paperwork, but she stresses that the entire group plays a huge role. They contact the kids’ caregivers, host the Angel Tree display in the lobby each Sunday, wrap and pack gifts and then deliver them to families.

Kathy and Bob Opperman are part of the life group.

“It has been rewarding to see our group step up to the challenge,” Kathy says. “Each of us takes on some of the different areas of this project and with the congregation’s help, we are able to share God’s love with these children and families at Christmas. I believe each person in our group does this in humble service—in hope and prayer for the seeds of the gospel message to be planted through Angel Tree.” 

Patti Clauson, another life group member with her husband, Tim, has been doing Angel Tree for 25 years with her kids and her dad. 

“Delivering these gifts was part of our Christmas tradition,” Patti says. “I would have a few boxes of candy canes, my dad would have the addresses and my kids would be the ones to carry in the gifts. Sometimes we were able to give them an invite to Christmas Traditions. Other times we gave them a Bible. One time we went to the home of a boy who was in my son Chad’s class at Eisenhower (Middle School). That really left an impression.”

Dave Hugdahl adds: “When delivering the presents to the families, you really get to experience Acts 20:35 when Paul quotes Jesus saying ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’.  It’s always a joy to see the excitement on the faces of the children when they see the large bags of presents and experience the gratefulness of the adults who care for them.”

In past years, our First Free family has served 70 to 75 Angel Tree kids — and all of the tags have been taken quickly by people eager to buy gifts. The additional kids this year mean a few more people are needed to help, Sue says, especially Dec. 17 when the gifts get delivered. If you or your life group is interested, contact the church office at 877-7046 or info@firstfreerockford.org.


Check out this story from last year about how an Angel Tree donor from First Free Rockford got a surprise glimpse of the ministry’s impact.

Jim Killam
Jim Killam is a journalist, author, teacher and terminal Cubs fan. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Rockford and work internationally with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

1 Comment

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    Thank you for this great article, Jim! We appreciate your efforts.


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