Good Neighbors

Community Donates Gifts To Mothers In Jail To Wrap For Their Children

They didn't want students with parents in jail to miss out on the magic of the holidays.

While all of the shopping and consumption around the holidays can be overwhelming, it's important to remember what it's all for. Sure, the things you buy will eventually go to someone else, but it's easy to get distracted from the true meaning of what it means to give.

The teachers and staff at Midway Elementary School in Roane County, TN are experts at giving back. Each year they donate toys that are given to incarcerated mothers at the county jail. The moms are then able to wrap the gifts and give them to their children for Christmas.


The program was started six years ago by Mrs. Hylene Pankey, a counselor at the school.

"Christmas is a time for giving, and I think it's a time to take all the judgmental things away," Pankey (pictured below) told WBIR-TV.


Every year, sheriffs from the jail come to Midway to pick up boxes of stuffed animals, toy trucks, books, crayons and dolls. The donations are then given to 14 incarcerated mothers, who are all trustees that work in the kitchen and prepare meals for everyone in the jail.

The teachers are dedicated to the cause because they see the effects in their own classrooms, every day. Many of the kids in the community have a parent in jail, so the need for the program is very real.

"It's unfortunate that they're in there, but the kids shouldn't have to pay a price for that," Pankey said.

Maretta McNichols, the Program Director for the Roane County Sheriff's Office, sees the results of the community's generosity first-hand and knows how much it means to the mothers who struggle especially hard this time of year.

"Oh, they get so excited once they get past the tears, because they are very humbled for one and it makes them think about the choices they've made and the decisions and how they affect everyone," McNichols (pictured below) said.


When the children go to visit their mother in jail, they get a small gift that has been wrapped with love. For the moms in the program, it's a present that's worth more than any dollar amount. And that, my friends, is what "the season of giving" is all about.

If you would like to make a donation to the program, you can call Midway Elementary at (865) 376-2341 and find out how you can get involved.

You can also donate to the Angel Tree Prison Fellowship, a national organization that helps get gifts to children with parents in prison.

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