GUEST BLOG: Gifts for Children of Incarcerated Parents

GUEST BLOG by Margaret Mackie-Ciancio

The summer has flown by, the leaves are turning already and pumpkin-flavored everything is filling the displays!  Soon, too soon, the holiday season will be upon us and we already feel unready. So, before we plunge into the whirl of the Season of Giving, with decorations, party preparations, family visits, recipe hunting and gift shopping, let us take a breath. What are the holidays supposed to be about? What do we want them to be about? We can orient ourselves now, early, so that we remember our priorities and retain the deeper meaning that gives the true sense of fulfillment to our celebrations.

Our families and friends need and deserve our attention at this time, and it's a joy to offer it. But if we want to go deeper, we might consider that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and that everyone is our neighbor. There are many neglected, troubled, poor and lonely; we don't have to look far to find them. Our local prisons are full of just such people, and their families on the outside are suffering, too.

The ChIPs (Children of Incarcerated Persons) program cements tenuous connections between parents or grandparents inside and families outside by bringing Christmas to both. Prisoners choose gifts for the children in their lives from a multitude of toys and games sorted by age and sex of the child. The gift they choose is wrapped for them, and they are allowed to present that gift in person when the family visits. The child receives tangible proof that this loved one hasn't forgotten him/her. The prisoners get to see that their families still care and still need them. Not only does the exchange make Christmas fleetingly brighter for everyone, it also has a lasting effect in fostering the family bond -- a connection so very necessary when the prisoners serve their time and are released. They knowthey still have a place to go, and the families knows they care enough to want to come home.

Here’s what you can do:

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 4th where they will be transported to St. Paul’s School for sorting.  The dates for sorting are tentatively set for early November.  (Call 432 7679 or 867 4590 for more informationor email maggie.ciancio@gmail.com)

There are many other ways you can help:

1.     You can purchase a gift directly or contribute $25 (Note we are asking for a little more this year).  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.

2.     You can volunteer to collect gifts and serve as your parish’s contact.

3.     You can help sort the gifts at St. Paul’s School.

4.     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 but is usually in early December.)

5.     You can collect note cards for use in the prison.

For more information, or if you wish to volunteer, please contact me, Margaret Mackie-Ciancio, at 603 432-7679 (home) or 867 4590 (cell) or at maggie.ciancio@gmail.com. 

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 $25 (original retail value).

One $25 gift is preferable to five $5 gifts as it is difficult to group items together to equal a $25 gift.

If you don’t want to purchase a $25 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.

Thank you!