DETROIT (WWJ) – Being away from your loved ones is always tough during the holidays — especially if one of them is in prison.

WWJ’s Brooke Allen reports there are children of inmates throughout Michigan who may not have a Christmas if it were not for the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree Program.

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Detroit Gospel singer Sonnie Day said the program helped her daughter through her most formative years while her dad was in prison.

When the first gift showed up, she said, she really wasn’t sure where it came from.

“I just saw an Angel Tree logo and I saw ‘From Dad,'” Day said. “And, so, when my daughter would open that gift her tears began to flow — I didn’t know why…but I’m just thinking, OK, it’s from your dad.”

“…That connection was there; I saw that, because her dad was incarcerated in Tennessee and we were here in Michigan,”  Day said. “And so that gift kept that relationship that they had and kept those doors open for our family to be restored.”

Day said her daughter is now 21 years old, and even through the family is now able to celebrate the holidays together, those gifts remain on her dresser.

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Denise Harris, Southeast Michigan Prison Fellowship Coordinator, explained how the program works.

“Some churches, they opt to do two gifts: a toy gift and a clothing gift,” Harris said. “And that message from that incarcerated parent gets attached to that gift, because that has a huge impact.”

Charnell Scott, a former inmate at  Correctional Facility, said the program did what she could not do.

“Angel Tree asks the parents to pick out what the children want or need, and they provide for them,” Scott said. “So, on Christmas morning, when everybody’s opening up gifts, your children can open up gifts as well.”

“My children were so happy,” she said. “That sentiment and that thought goes a long way when you’re incarcerated.”

The program is expected to serve up to 13,000 kids in Michigan this year.

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[Get more information about the program at this link].