By Maria Telesco
For the past 14 years, women incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla have received a holiday gift bag, courtesy of the prison’s Inmate Family Council (IFC), with the support of many valley churches, other organizations and individuals. For most, this is the only Christmas they will have. For many, it may be the only gift she has received in her entire life.
The former volunteer program coordinator for the last nine years has retired due to health concerns. The new volunteer coordinator and location are now in Fresno, at Wesley United Methodist Church.
December is quickly approaching, and the committee faces the massive task of gathering, sorting and packaging gift bags for nearly 3,000 inmates. Due to strict prison rules, all bags must be uniform and can contain only items preapproved by the warden.
There is a critical need for donated combs (no rat tails); pens (non-click only); travel/sample-sized shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, soap and toothpaste; toothbrushes (regular size); small notepads (not sticky); and greeting cards of all kinds (English and Spanish).
Tax-deductible monetary donations (checks, no cash) are also needed to purchase packaging materials and additional gift items. Make checks payable to Wesley United Methodist Church, with “Prison Gift Bags” on the memo line. Mail checks to Wesley UMC, 1343 E. Barstow Ave., Fresno, CA 93710.
Donations may be left at the church office, but please phone before dropping them off to be sure the office will be open, or at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, 1584 N. Van Ness Ave., Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday 2 p.m.–6 p.m.
For additional information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, Wesley UMC at 559-224-1947 or maria.telesco@ sbcglobal.net.
Maria Telesco is a retired registered nurse who has volunteered in various aspects of prison ministry for more than 25 years. Contact her at email@example.com.