‘What Christmas Is All About’

Daily News-Record  12/20/18
HARRISONBURG — For the past few days, New Market resident Pam Presgrave packed up pencils, notebooks, toothpaste and other items that most people take for granted.
Over the next few days, more than 5,000 packages will be delivered to Virginia inmates provided by Kingsway Prison and Family Outreach in Harrisonburg.
“It makes me feel good knowing that they’re not forgotten,” Presgrave said. “I have a wonderful time.”
Kingsway, which started in 1983, is a nonprofit nondenominational volunteer Christian group that works with inmates in several jails, including Rockingham County Jail.
Louise Jennings, the organization’s executive director, said it’s important
that inmates know that there are people outside the prison walls who haven’t given up on them.
“We want to share love,” said the 83-year old, who also serves as the women’s chaplain at the county jail. “Everybody else gets Christmas gifts. We like to show them what Christmas is all about.”
Often, she said, inmates can’t afford to purchase simple items, such as paper and pencils, from the jail’s canteen. Many use the items to write to loved ones or capture their feelings.
“A lot of them like to write poetry or stories or keep a journal but don’t have the paper to do it,” Jennings said. In addition to the inmate packages, Kingsway sent out gifts to children of incarcerated parents as part of the Apple Tree Project.
The project began in 1985 with 13 children receiving gifts. This year, 309 will have wrapped presents under the Christmas tree.
In October, applications are sent to chaplains at area correctional facilities and distributed to inmates with children 17 and younger. The applications are sent back to Kingsway, and the names and ages of the children are sent to participating churches, businesses and other organizations.
Each child received three gifts. Many of the children are being raised by grandparents.
“We get letters back from grandparents thanking us and telling us they wouldn’t have had anything for the children this year,” Jennings said.
Kathie Brooks, 64, of Harrisonburg, helped wrap gifts this week.
“It feels good to give to those in need, especially when children are involved,” she said.
While the Christmas projects take place in the last few weeks of the year, Jennings said Kingsway is active throughout year.
She said volunteers hold Bible studies and church services at about a half dozen facilities.
“I have a 2-year-old car,” she said, “with 50,000 miles on it.”