"Holidays Not Forgotten," a volunteer-run community program at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, is currently underway. Inmates in the parenting program create holiday wish lists with their children that are sent to "Holidays Not Forgotten." The program then solicits volunteers to 'adopt’ children and purchase presents from these wish lists.
The program was founded by Courtney Henderson of Providence, who received a “Friends of the Department” award that recognized her contributions through the program at the RIDOC’s Annual Employee Awards Ceremony in February. A member of the staff of the Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown University, Ms. Henderson coordinates the purchase and delivery of the gifts based on wish lists made by the children during Saturday visits with their mom or dad. She then distributes the lists to her network of family and friends, and personally delivers carloads full of items to the prisons so that each child receives something from his or her incarcerated parent at the holidays.
In a Letter of Commendation presented to Ms. Henderson at the February ceremony, Corrections Director A.T. Wall wrote, “You obviously recognize the importance of ensuring that a positive relationship between parent and child is maintained during the parent’s incarceration and the challenges that entails. Thousands of children in our state face the stresses associated with having an incarcerated mother or father, or, in some cases, both. Something as simple as a holiday gift can create a positive memory of an otherwise difficult time and can strengthen the ties we hope will be reestablished when the offender is released.”
Ms. Henderson is concerned about all of the children being “adopted” given the increase in the number of inmates participating and the challenging economic times. This year she has posted an “evite” online to attract greater participation. It can be accessed by typing the following URL into any browser: http://www.evite.com/r?iid=MUVBZQFZTZAMVWIQDJS&li=iq&src=email.
Anyone interested in donating to the "Holidays Not Forgotten" project is also invited to contact Ms. Henderson at Courtney.E.Henderson@gmail.com.