Sharing Hope With Families in Detention this Holiday Season

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Children's books in Spanish

This week countless supporters made a difference in the lives of mothers and children isolated in family detention facilities. We asked for cards and gifts for families in our Hope for the Holidays campaign and were amazed by the responses.

Churches and groups across the country hosted card writing events and some crafted their own cards. Many donated to make sure each child would receive a gift, including one teen who generously gave from her first paycheck.

Packing up a box of stuffed elephants and crayons for kids in family detention.

Members of Good News Lutheran Church, LIRS’ on the ground partner in Texas, delivered cards and gifts to the facility in Karnes City, TX and we sent over 1,000 cards to the detention center in Dilley, TX (they declined our offer to send gifts). With your support, we sent 3,982 cards and 665 gifts to families that are spending this holiday season far from their homes.

Julia Coffin, LIRS Detention Visitation Specialist, fills a box with dolls and stuffed animals.

Along with a few of my LIRS colleagues, I joined local supporters in Pennsylvania to deliver gifts and cards to the Berks County facility in person. For several days, packages had arrived at Bern Evangelical Lutheran Church – the staging ground for our Hope for the Holidays delivery.

berksgiftsbernevangelicallutheranchurch

With the Rev. Phyllis Wolkenhauer, pastor at Bern Lutheran, and Dawn Baxter, president of GRIP, Greater Reading Immigration Project, we cut open boxes and removed packaging to comply with the detention facility’s requirements for in-kind donations.

Many hands helping made quick work, and were soon loading up the trunk with greeting cards, stuffed animals, toy trucks, books and more for the 80+ women and children detained!

Pastor Phyllis Wolkenhauser looks on as LIRS staff members Julia Coffin and Deanne Walters load boxes into a car.

As we drove up to the detention center, I strained to see if any kids might be out in the yard, but the grass field and playground equipment were deserted.

Inside the lobby we observed the brick walls and bright wreath hanging on a door as we waited for a staff member to arrive. A clock on the wall displayed 24-hour time. Seeing it there evoked a military feel, but reminded me that many of the families are used to using a 24-hour clock in their home countries. It seemed both militaristic and considerate.

Pulling up to the Berks County Residential Center where about 80 mothers and children are currently detained.

We could hear children’s voices coming down the hallway, but couldn’t see them. After a few minutes a couple of staff case managers came to take our boxes. They thanked us for the cards and gifts and emphasized that they try to make things festive around the holidays, although one admitted that it wouldn’t be the same as celebrating at home with family members.

berksgiftsdetentioncenter

Though the gifts and cards we offered won’t solve these families’ situations, we know that they will bring hope into their lives. New toys and children’s books, journals for mothers, and cards with Christmas greetings in Spanish will show them that people they’ve never met care about them. They will know that strangers are praying for them.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the Hope for the Holidays campaign for your generous contributions. Join me in continuing to pray for these families this Christmas and into the New Year.

Cecilia Pessoa Cecilia Pessoa is Digital Communications Coordinator at LIRS.

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