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Angels grow on trees for prisoners' children

December 13, 2006

Editor's Note: In this 12-part series that runs through Christmas Eve, The Herald-Mail highlights people and organizations who make the holidays brighter for others.




Name: Virginia Altman

Age: 71

Home: Hagerstown

Occupation: Retired after 28 years as an instructional assistant for the Washington County Board of Education. She spent her whole career at Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown.

Organization: Member of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Hagerstown

What do you do to make Christmas brighter? St. Mark's parishioners, including Altman, are buying Christmas gifts for 26 Maryland and West Virginia children whose parents are in prison. The program, called Angel Tree, is part of Prison Fellowship, a national organization.

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"Angel Tree Christmas gives churches an opportunity to share Christ's love by helping to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the families of prisoners," the Angel Tree Web site says.

Each child receives two gifts - a fun item and a clothing item - on behalf of the child's parents. The suggested total price for the two gifts is $35, but the limit is flexible, according to Sadie Pounder, a vicar at St. Mark's. Christian literature is included in each package.

Other local churches also are participating in Angel Tree.

Why do you do it? "Each year, I try to do something special for some child - or it could even be an older person - who just wouldn't have a very good Christmas .... This year, this is what I want to do."

How can others help? The Angel Tree program can be reached at 800-552-6435 or angel_tree@pfm.org. The Web site is www.angeltree.org.

Comment: "If I could make a child happy, that makes me happy."

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