Operation Toy Lift connects families during tough times (video)
(Watch video) – It’s hard to imagine being separated from your children at Christmas, but that is the reality for thousands of families in Minnesota and North Dakota.
“Prison can be a very isolating experience,” explained Salvation Army Chaplain Charles Barry.
And when a parent is incarcerated, it’s the children who often suffer the most. That’s where Operation Toy Lift comes in. For 35 years, The Salvation Army program has been helping families stay connected during the toughest of times.
“It’s a high touch, it’s a connection point that allows these parents to stay involved with their kids in a meaningful way,” Barry said.
It all starts in August, Salvation Army chaplains visit prisons throughout Minnesota and North Dakota, allowing inmates to pick out gifts for their children. Then, for three days in November hundreds of volunteers wrap the gifts. The footballs, toys and other treasures are delivered via UPS, just in time for Christmas. This year, Toy Lift will serve nearly 1,900 children.
“Oh my gosh, we’ve wrapped at least a hundred so far,” exclaimed Lisa Kauffman, one of many volunteers from Xcel Energy. “What drew us to this event is really thinking of those kids and making sure it’s a fun Christmas for them, even though a parent is not with them during these difficult times.”
The gifts even come with a personalized, hand-written note from mom or dad. The children are not even aware that the The Salvation Army is involved. It can make make all the difference, when the parent eventually returns home.
“Oh it’s big time,” Barry said. “We had a guy who was incarcerated for a number of years and the only contact he had with his daughter was through our toy program. He got out and was able to reconnect.”