December 16, 2015 // Local

Knights give ‘visit the imprisoned’ a Christmas twist

Children received their gifts at a Christmas party at St. Henry Church on Dec. 13. The Knights of Columbus council at St. Aloysius, Yoder, coordinate a Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree program where gifts are purchased for the children whose parent may be in jail or in prison.

By Tim Johnson

BLUFFTON — Two Knights of Columbus councils have brought some Christmas cheer this year to the work of mercy — visit the imprisoned.

The Knights at St. Joseph Parish in Bluffton purchase Christmas gifts for the children of those incarcerated at the Wells County Jail.

Lt. Jim Paxton, a detective in the Wells County Sheriff’s Office, and Larry Mock, the Wells County public defender, are both Knights at the St. Joseph council. Modeled on the Angel Tree Program, Paxton spoke to the St. Joseph Knights who felt there was a need at the jail for those incarcerated to provide Christmas gifts for their children. Now in its third year, individual Knights purchased gifts for seven children and are presented from the mom or dad.

Paxton said the inmates have the need to have a connection with their family while they are in jail. “It’s tough during a holiday to be away,” he said. “I felt there was a need for the inmates to still bond with their families during the holiday.”

Paxton asks for six to eight names of local inmates from the jailers who know the inmates and work with them every day. Paxton then meets with the inmates in a group and explains the Knights of Columbus program. He asks if there is a gift in particular that the inmates would like for their children. The inmates write down that gift, and the Knights purchase those gifts.

The gift is presented from mom or dad. “We want the child to know that their parent is still thinking about them while they are here in jail,” Paxton told Today’s Catholic from the Wells County Sheriff’s Office.

“This time of year is tough on everybody, especially if you are away from your family,” Paxton noted. “It’s tough on you if you have other problems in your life. If we can help some families during the holidays be a little happier, that is what we are supposed to do.”

After the gifts are collected, Paxton or Mock go to the homes where the children are staying, knock on the door and say, “This is from your mom or dad.”

“The people I have dealt with in the past have been very appreciative,” Paxton said. He tells those in jail to make sure they tell their family that Paxton or Mock will be delivering the gift.

Paxton said the Knights of Columbus are a great help for this outreach as a corporal work of mercy, visit the imprisoned.

He said if another council or sheriff’s department is interested in adapting a similar outreach, they may contact him at the Wells County Sheriff’s Department.

The St. Joseph Knights are also involved in the purchase of Coats for Kids. On Dec. 6, they sponsored a breakfast with funds going toward the purchase of several new coats.

Up State Road 1 at St. Aloysius, Yoder, the Knights of Columbus have sponsored the Prison Ministries Angel Tree program for the last nine years, and the parish sponsored it two years prior. In the program parishioners select from a Christmas tree a card representing a child whose parent is in jail. Parishioners purchase the gifts, which are returned beneath the tree at the church and then transported to a celebration at St. Henry Church in Fort Wayne.

The families and guardians of the children are invited to the gift party that includes prayer petitions and a talk from Msgr. Bernard Galic, pastor of St. Aloysius. Each family then receives the gifts with a message from the parent who is in prison, has lunch and a visit with Santa. In return the family can sign a Christmas card, which is mailed back to the incarcerated parent.

Mark Michuda, the district deputy Knight and member of the St. Aloysius Knights of Columbus, said there are 120 children representing 56 families with a parent incarcerated. And typically in Allen County, he said, there are over 1,000 children whose parent or parents are incarcerated. “The need is just enormous,” Michuda said. He said, this year there are children receiving gifts with both parents who are incarcerated.



For more information about the St. Aloysius Knights’ Prison Angel Tree program, email [email protected].





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