KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Angel Tree program has made Christmas morning a lot brighter for so many children in our area, thanks to your generosity through the years.

But there’s one Angel Tree you don’t hear about. It’s at the Knox County Detention Facility, and it’s quietly supported by some churches in our area, benefiting children of inmates.

We met some of the volunteers who are the first faces families of inmates see when they come to the Knox County Detention Facility to pick up Angel Tree presents for their kids.

Sandy Bolton of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church has been part of the special program since it began more than a dozen years ago and tries to add a little holiday spirit to families going through a difficult time.

“We want to put them at ease,” Sandy said. “So when they come in, we just greet them like an old friend and as we look up their names of the children and go to find the gifts. We try to talk to them about their situation, not personally, but just in general – ‘Are you ready for Christmas?’, or ‘Is there anything we can pray for your family about?’ “

A giant meeting room just beyond the lobby of the detention facility is where you’ll find the results of five churches coming together for all 246 children on the Angel Tree list.

Detention facility chaplain Jeff Hunter oversees the program, making sure inmates know about the Angel Tree applications, and fill them out with their kids’ wishes. Church volunteers then go shopping, wrapping the gifts, placing them in large bags for easy transport.

“We’ve been blessed. Every year since we started, the churches really stepped up, ” Hunter says.

Thank you to those who remember the children, especially this time of year, and Merry Christmas.

The churches taking part are:

  • Wallace Memorial Baptist Church
  • Sevier Heights Baptist Church
  • Children of God Church
  • Inskip Methodist Church
  • The Exodus Church

If your church would like to get involved next year, call 865-281-6900.