BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. Some children of men incarcerated in Sing Sing prison will be receiving holiday gifts sent in the name of their father, thanks to a toy drive based out of Briarcliff High School.
"It's something we took on a couple of years ago as a community service project," said Connie Welsh a co-chair of the Briarcliff Manor Community Coalition who is organizing the toy drive. "It's working with kids, kids making good choices, we tie it in to all kinds of things."
Reverend Ronald Lemmert, one of the founders of the program who used to work at Sing Sing maximum security prison in Ossining, said children are thrilled to receive a present from their father.
"With the guys who are locked up, many of them have children at home and it would mean so much to them for their kids to get a present from their father, but they can't afford to send them anything," he said.
Sing Sing fathers who participate in the program are men who have gone through rehabilitation programs, many of whom say they would not have committed their crime were they not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Welsh said.
The fathers give out the names of their children and their children's ages and addresses, and volunteers match up gifts dropped off at a donation box in Briarcliff High School with each of the children.
"Right now we're just collecting gifts," explained Welsh. "Then it's a sort through job. Kids come and get a sheet of the family. They go around, pick the gifts, box them, wrap them and label them 'From Dad.'"
This year, the sorting and wrapping will take place on Dec. 7 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Briarcliff High School lobby, Welsh said. Volunteers will be served pizza during the long night, and community service hours will be given to those who need them.
"There's babies and there's teenagers. We try to fit whatever the profile is," Welsh said.
Gifts for children up to 15 years old can be dropped off in the Briarcliff High School lobby up until Dec. 7. Anyone who is interested in volunteering to choose, wrap and package gifts can contact Welsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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