"The" Friendship Baptist Church
Friendship Baptist Church on the west side of Chicago was the first church to become a part of Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree Ministry Program. In the Fall of 1983, under the leadership of Rev. William Watts, Field Director for Illinois, and Pastor Shelvin J. Hall, Rev. Alex E. Brown, Jr. was assigned as coordinator for the program. Excited, Rev. Brown lovingly answered the biblical call to minister to the least of these to give children hope during Christmas time. Rev. Brown and Alice Brown, a husband and wife team, went into the prisons taking names of over 150 children of incarcerated parents, and presenting those children with gifts on behalf of the absent parent. Between 1994 and 1998, Mrs. Alice Brown served as coordinator of Friendship’s Angel Tree Program, continuing the work that her husband began.
In 1999, Ms. Lillie Metts Davis became the Angel Tree coordinator at Friendship. Ms. Metts partnered with Faith Lutheran Church in Lombard, Illinois where Sherri McCoy served as the Angel Tree coordinator. Ms. Metts and Mrs. McCoy worked cooperatively to service over 100 children within the 60644 zip code area. All members of these churches were asked to buy a gift or donate money. Throughout the years, Ms. Metts has coordinated uplifting and encouraging programs focusing on the children. Program themes for 2000 through 2007 include:
2000 J = Jesus
O = Others
Y = Yourself
2002 Making Spirits Bright
2003 Strengthening the Spirit
2004 The Heart of the Party
2005 Two Events: One Worthy Cause
2006 One For All, All For One
2007 The Greatest Gift of All
2008 Angels Watching Over Me
2009 A Gift for All Seasons
2010 The Perfect Present
More than 90 children have been served at each of these programs. Every child has received 2-3 gifts a piece plus their choice of a colorful hat, headband, earmuffs, gloves, socks or scarf. In 2006, a list of the children and their caregivers was given to Mrs. Carolyn Davidson, Sunday Church School Superintendent. As part of the outreach ministry of the Sunday Church School, Mrs. Davidson sent out personal invitations inviting everyone on the list to Friendship. As a result, some of the children visited Friendship, attended Vacation Bible School and accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Over the years, Ms. Metts has always recognized that she could not have done the Angel Tree Program alone. Mr. Richard and Mrs. Sally Holland promoted the program through their printing business. The Holland’s helped get businesses to donate books, toys, stuffed animals and entertainment for the children such as a clown and various musicians.
Rev. Brown’s daughter, Mrs. Cynthia Brown Greenwood, began working with the Angel Tree Program in 1994, and later took on the job of promoting partnerships with various organizations. In 1998, under the leadership of Mrs. Katherine Hainey, President of Glen Ellyn Area Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a partnership formed that still exists today. Members of Delta Sigma Theta have volunteered during the annual Christmas party, and have purchased gifts for numerous children. Between 1999 and 2004, Aetna U.S. Healthcare, where Mrs. Brown Greenwood served as Director of Network Management, sponsored between 25 and 50 children annually. In 2003, Mrs. Brown Greenwood enlisted the support of West Towns Links with the assistance of Mrs. Dianne Engram. West Town Links continues to increase its support each year by sponsoring more children, i.e. 47 in 2006 as compared to 31 children in 2005.
Mrs. Sharon Thurmond Hartshorn works closely with the Angel Tree Program. Mrs. Hartshorn promotes the program within Friendship Baptist Church. Through her leadership, Departments and Auxiliaries have provided financial support to offset Angel Tree expenses.
The youth and children of Friendship have been instrumental in the success of the Angel Tree Christmas party. They have served as greeters, assisted with entertainment and food service.
This report would not be complete if it did not include the many other volunteers that help with Angel Tree by telephoning caregivers, donating gifts and supplies, shopping, entertaining, wrapping gifts, storing gifts, picking-up and delivering gifts.
Ms. Metts believes that working with Angel Tree in a leadership capacity for the past 8 years has been a glorious experience. It is a JOY to give of finance and service, to seek out volunteers, to gather support and to plan the Angel Tree Program for children of incarcerated parents during the Christmas season. We humbly prayed for the children and their families as we brought them before the Lord to experience the joy of knowing that they have not been forgotten, and we all reaped the rewards of sharing the love of God. What a GREAT ministry!!!
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