More than two-and-a-half million children across the U.S. have an incarcerated parent. That’s one in 28 kids whose world has been torn apart—who are at risk for depression, attention disorders and other mental health problems. They are four times more likely than their peers to grow up in poverty, and three times more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system themselves.
Peoria native Natika Washington is working hard to positively impact the lives of these children. The Richwoods graduate, who formerly served as Director of Global Programs in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, is now Vice President of Foundation and Corporate Sponsors at Prison Fellowship, a Christian nonprofit that works to help prisoners achieve holistic life transformation and emerge as productive citizens upon release.
Among the organization’s programs is Angel Tree, which seeks to help the children of incarcerated men and women. Since 1982, Angel Tree has delivered Christmas gifts to more than 10 million children—helping families stay connected and reminding kids that they are loved and their parent has not forgotten them. “We partner with thousands of volunteers and churches across all 50 states,” states Washington. “This year, for the first time, we will be partnering with several organizations, businesses and churches in Peoria.”
Last year, nearly 300,000 children were matched to more than 7,000 Angel Tree churches and organizations. This year, in Greater Peoria alone, the organization has received more than 280 applications for children in need of love and support during the holiday season. “United Fellowship Ministries, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Richwoods Christian Church and The Vineyard Church have agreed to sponsor children as official volunteers of Angel Tree Christmas in Peoria,” says Washington, who is also seeking support from the local business community.
Visit prisonfellowship.org/about/angel-tree for more information. To get involved, contact Natika Washington at (703) 554-8406. iBi