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First Free Rockford is proudly participating in the Angel Tree program again this year, delivering gifts and the message of God’s love to children in the Rockford area whose parents are in prison during the holiday season.

Our church has participated in this program for more than 25 years in partnership with Prison Fellowship, a nonprofit Christian organization whose mission is to restore those affected by crime and incarceration. There are more than 2.7 million U.S. children who have a mom or dad in prison, according to the organization, and churches and community organizations throughout the country have already committed to serving more than 275,000 kids this year.

Angel Tree Coordinator Susan Schumacher, a Belvidere resident who’s been attending First Free for nearly 30 years, found a personal connection in this project. She had a loved one in prison and saw the devastating effects an experience like that can have on families.

“We do this out of compassion for the children,” she said. “The program gives us an opportunity to share God’s love by helping to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the families of prisoners.”

You can help by picking a tag off the Angel Tree in our lobby. This year, we have 17 families with 45 children we’re helping. Each child will receive two gifts – an article of clothing and a toy or other fun gift, as well as an age-appropriate booklet about the gospel provided by Prison Fellowship. The families give us suggestions to help personalize the gifts even more.

Grab a tag, shop for gifts, wrap them and turn them in by Dec. 11. We’ll package the gifts on Dec. 12 and deliver them to families on Dec. 15. Let us know if you’d like to volunteer in any way. It’s a beautiful tradition we are excited to participate in again this year!