At Somebody Cares Tampa Bay, we believe that every child should experience the joys of Christmas, regardless of their socioeconomic status, demographics, cultural background or race.
As part of our core values, we endeavor to help facilitate this by rallying our partners and network of agencies together in order to help families in need during the holidays. Over the years we have provided ways to give to children in the Tampa Bay area communities and beyond, via our Caretagious Christmas Program. We have had the opportunity to partner with various organizations, like Holiday of Hope, and others, in order to serve children and families residing in halfway houses, those in the foster program, and even those who have been affected by disaster, as part of our disaster relief efforts.
Over the last few years, we have partnered with the Angel Tree program, providing Christmas assistance for children of incarcerated parents.
For over 30 years, the Angel Tree program has been providing children Christmas gifts on behalf of their incarcerated loved one in prison, as well as a simple message about God’s love and forgiveness. Through Angel Tree, families have been restored, kids have been encouraged, and the Gospel has been proclaimed.
Restoration is a very important part of Somebody Cares Tampa Bay and when you read the story of how Angel Tree began, you will see why we take part in this beautiful way to give back. Angel Tree was founded by Mary Kay Beard, a former bank robber on the FBI’s most wanted list. By the time of her arrest in 1972, Mary Kay Beard had built up quite the resume—one that resulted in 35 indictments and 11 federal charges being levied against her. She was sentenced to a 21-year prison sentence, which was later reduced to six.
During that first year in prison God reached down and brought forth a change in Mary Kay that would redirect her life. Flipping through a Bible one evening, she came across a passage in the book of Ezekiel:
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
Mary Kay prayed in her cell that night, “If you will do that for me … I will give the rest of my life back to you.”
It was also during that first year that God revealed to Mary Kay what would become her calling. In the days leading up to Christmas, she would watch the other moms behind bars package the little they had—soap, shampoo, and other toiletries—and give it to their children as gifts. Despite the simplicity of the gifts, she saw how joyously the kids received them, not because of their intrinsic value, but because they had come from their mother.
Upon her release from prison, Mary Kay joined Prison Fellowship’s staff. When tasked to come up with some kind of Christmas program, she remembered those incarcerated mothers, and the seeds of Angel Tree were sown.
Now three decades later, Angel Tree has served over six million children, and has brought the Good News of God’s love to families across the country. And you can be a part of continuing God’s work begun by Mary Kay.
We believe we can achieve more together than apart. Every year, we invite people to join us in making sure that all of these kids know that they are loved—both by their moms and dads behind bars, as well as by their Heavenly Father. Contact us TODAY and be a part of making this happen!