Christmas comes to children of incarcerated parents every year with your help: you and sponsors like you who donate gifts and funds to make it happen. Both the families and the incarcerated parents themselves are deeply grateful for the opportunity that the ChIPs program affords them. The prisons count the number of gifts needed for each age and gender group. Volunteers collect your gift donations, and use your monetary donations to supplement the gifts provided. Once the presents are sorted, they're brought to the prisons, and the inmates get the chance to choose one gift for each child on their list. Usually the inmate is a parent . Sometimes a grandparent. Sometimes even a big brother or sister.
Children of prison inmates can live lonely lives. It's easy to believe that a parent you never see just doesn't care. Inmates also find themselves feeling isolated and abandoned, unable to provide for or to be a part of their families. Being able to offer their children a gift at the Christmas visit gives the inmates an opportunity for connection, for a sliver of normalcy in their family relations.
Studies have shown that parolees are significantly more likely to integrate back into society if they are able to maintain relationships with their families. The ChIPs program creates positive experiences on which to build a foundation for those relationships.
At the Men's Prison in Concord, once the gift is chosen, volunteers wrap it. The prison then throws a party! The family visits, and the inmates are able to give presents to their children. The ChIPsprogram also includes an age-appropriate book to go with each gift, helping to promote literacy within this sometimes underprivileged population.
There are many ways you can help:
- You can purchase a gift directly or contribute $20. If you decide to make a monetary donation, please make out your check to the Diocese of New Hampshire with ChIPS written on the memo line of the check.
- You can volunteer to collect gifts and serve as your parish's contact.
- You can help sort the gifts at St. Paul's School.
- You can help with wrapping of the gifts at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men in Concord. (The date for wrapping has not yet been set.)
You may drop off gifts or monetary donations at your church. The delegates to the Diocesan Convention will bring your gifts to the Convention on November 7th where they will be transported to Blass Clubhouse at St. Paul's School for sorting. The dates for sorting are tentatively set for mid-November. (Call 432-7679 after November 1st for more information).
- We group gifts according the following age groups: birth to 1; ages 2 to 4; ages 5 to 7; ages 8-11; and ages 12-15
- Gifts should not exceed $20 (original retail value).
- One $20 gift is preferable to four $5 gifts as it is difficult to group items together to equal a $20 gift.
- If you don't want to purchase a $20 gift, any monetary donation will be gladly accepted.
- Books are a separate category and our goal is to provide each child with a gift and a book. (both hard cover and paperback books are appropriate)
- If you purchase a gift that requires batteries, please purchase those as well and attach them to the gift. It's so discouraging to receive a gift with no batteries.
- Consider buying a gift that would be appropriate for both boys and girls such as balls or board games.
- Don't forget the older children. It is often easier to buy gifts for younger children. There is always a shortage of gifts for older children.
- No used items, homemade items, or gift cards can be accepted.
- The following items are NOT acceptable: jewelry, balloons, crayons, play dough, glue, bubbles, make up, long sticks, knitting needles, crochet hooks, or paint brushes, glass items, clothing, sharp tools or toy weapons of any kind.
For more information, or if you wish to volunteer, please contact me, Margaret Mackie-Ciancio, at 603 432-7679 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.