Friendship’s Angel Tree Ministry fills in the gap

The Kelly family enjoyed the arts and craft projects along with the delicious food.

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Friendship Missionary Baptist Church held their annual Angel Tree Ministry’s Breakfast last Saturday for children of incarcerated parents. Depending on what member you asked in the church, you got a different number as to how long the congregation has played Santa to children in need. However, everyone agreed that no child should go without a Christmas.

Brenda Frazier took over the initiative seven years ago when the previous coordinator moved away. She continues to head up the ministry because she can’t bear to see children in need.

“For some of these kids, this might be the only thing they get.”

Starting last year, she included presents for homeless children attending Melrose Elementary. In total, 146 children from 53 families were able to receive gifts from the 33712 area code.

Friendship Missionary Baptist Church is one of the thousands of churches that participate in this national ministry. Angel Tree® is an initiative of Prison Fellowship, which began in 1982 and has become the largest outreach for children of prisoners.

Angel Tree® relies on local churches and groups to give hundreds of thousands of children a gift, the Gospel, and a personal message of love on behalf of their incarcerated parent. This year alone, more than 300,000 children will have a Christmas.

The gift-giving process is quite simple. A prisoner must contact their chaplain, who, in turn, will get the information to an Angel Tree® coordinator closes to the child. A coordinator, in this case, Frazier, contacts the caregivers, who can be anyone from the child’s mother to a grandparent, uncle, or aunt.

A few anonymous benefactors and members of the church are always happy to help put smiles on the children’s faces. Church member Angela Hall donated five pairs of brand new name-brand sneakers.  She has given shoes to cause for years “just to see a smile of the kids’ faces. No kid should go without on Christmas.”

Frazier is so grateful for the volunteers who stepped up this year. Not only did her congregation give of themselves, but she was also able to secure people from her job at the Clearwater campus of Pinellas Technical College (PTC-CLW).

The Baking and Pastry program built a scrumptious gingerbread house and provided enough blueberry muffins to feed an army. The dual enrollment students on the St. Pete campus made a delicious fruit tree, and decorative bows on the gift bags were created by one of her co-workers.

Three Clearwater campus barbering students showed up and out as they spent hours giving haircuts.

Barber student Stephanie Wynn cuts hair for free every Monday at Mister’z Barber Lounge and jumped at the chance to help bring a merry Christmas to children in need. “My passion is to serve others,” she said.

A hardy breakfast of grits, sausage, pancakes, eggs, and more was whipped up by three members of the Breakfast Ministry: Virginia Rivers, Barbara Hale, and Delorse C. Boyd. Where most people would fret cooking for such as large crowd, these three have it down to a science.

“We flipped and flipped pancakes,” said Rivers. “We know to come in and get our coffee pot ready and our grit pot to boiling, and after that, it’s smooth sailing.

Elder Corey Waters rounded out the morning with a little straight talk to the children and words of encouragement to the parents and guardians.

Frasier repeatedly said that this is her last year coordinating the effort, but no one believes her because she can’t say no to a child in need.

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