In a bid to show love to children with incarcerated parents, Teddie Martinez has purchased some Christmas presents for them. Project Reconnect is run out of Paterson’s 4th Ward.
The nonprofit program founded by Martinez is expected to benefit at least 73 kids. He got their names from the Passaic County Jail.
The program has been operational for the last three years now.
How Does The Project Reconnect Operate?
Project Reconnect has been operating under another the Angel Tree program. But it gets some support from St. Luke’s Baptist Church. So far, the program has offered gifts to at least 300 prison children.
Just like Martinez and his colleagues believe that Project Reconnect is very important to show prison kids that somebody somewhere cares about and love them.
The program allocates a maximum of $25 on each present. Martinez and his wife, Barbara, ensure that the purchased presents are good enough to make the youngsters happy.
However, the children are told that the gifts were sent from their imprisoned parents, and not from the Project Reconnect. This helps reconnect bonds between the prison kids and their parents behind bars.
The gifts come with angel-like stickers which contain short messages to kids written by their incarcerated parents.
Parenting from Behind Bars
Sarah Anthony, who heads the Butler Help Center, believes there is no better way to give back to the society than to assist a child. Prison kids need to feel the care and love of their imprisoned parents.
Martinez has firsthand knowledge about the frustrations these inmates experience during holidays like Christmas. He once served a felony conviction in prison, and his children received gifts through caring programs like the Angel Tree.
Martinez remembers having admired a lovely new coat his little daughter was wearing when she came for a holiday visit at the prison. It wasn’t until the daughter thanked Martinez for the coat that the then inmate realized she’d gotten it as a gift through prison ministry program.
It’s more than a decade since Martinez was released. And he has used most of his time in offering re-entry services to ex-convicts under the Project Reconnect program.
He launched the local program to increase his contribution to the Paterson community.
Distribution of the Presents to the Children
The purchased presents will be handed over on December 23, at a holiday party in the Center City Mall Paterson. The past events were carried out at a church hall.
Arcade games will also be offered to children as well as engage in several other activities. Angel Tree’s organizers notified the respective families about the party in November. Some have confirmed their participation, while others will not.
The group will be shopping the presents from the malls. Ramapo College’s Black Student Union members have also volunteered in the shopping process and wrapping of the gifts.
Jennifer Foxworth, who was once helped by Martinez to get off substance abuse, is among the first-time volunteers assisting the program, this year.
At one time, Foxworth was married to a guy who was in jail. She remembers her daughter receiving a Christmas present through the Angel Tree program.
Anyone willing to volunteer or assist the Angel Tree program in anyway can call 973-756-7701. Tax deductible donations may be mailed to Project Reconnect—P.O. Box 3296; Paterson, NJ 07509.