An Oklahoma agency helping families impacted by incarceration needs help to give a special Christmas to a group of kids who are often forgotten.
The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM) is holding a toy drive so children whose parents are in prison can open a gift on Christmas.
TEEM is an interfaith non-profit organization dedicated to breaking the cycles of incarceration and poverty.
“This isn’t where I need to be. I’m better than this,” said Alicia Pickens.
Pickens is part of TEEM’s culinary arts program so she can have a career when her sentence is up.
“I have four children and they are the most amazing thing in the world to me,” Pickens told News 9.
Pickens is serving time for drugs and has nine months left. She knows her four children, who are all under the age of 7, are suffering for her bad choices. The idea of a toy drive to help children whose parents are incarcerated made her cry.
“I can't just run to the store and buy gifts for my kids. And to be able to know that they are going to receive a gift and it come from mom, that's the most amazing gift in the world,” Pickens explained.
TEEM is asking the public to donate new, unwrapped toys. Incarcerated parents will then “shop” through the pile of toys and give their children gifts for Christmas.
Oklahoma ranks first in the world for the rate at which women are incarcerated. And statistics show that children with a parent in prison are seven times more likely to end up in prison themselves.
“There is an unfortunate trend happening in our own backyard that we want to stop. We want this to end and this season, we just want to spread a little holiday cheer,” said Lance Evans with TEEM.
While Pickens is focused on her future dreams, she needs a little help from the public to fulfill her current dream of giving her children a Christmas.
“For someone to reach out and help us with that, that would really be a blessing,” Pickens said.
The toy drive kick-off is Saturday, Nov. 21 in the Nigh Center ballroom at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. It starts at 8 p.m. and will feature a live concert by The Soulsations, raffle prizes and more.
Admission is free, however the public is asked to bring new, unused games and toys for children, ages infant to 18 years old.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.teem.org.