TLC center brings Christmas cheer to kids of incarcerated parents

Published 3:02 pm Friday, December 9, 2022

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By Angela Cutrer
Elizabethton Star
After eight years of dormancy, the TLC Community Center will once again help bring Christmas to children of incarcerated parents in the Carter County Detention Center. The children will receive presents and will have a 15-minute video visit with their parent on Tuesday, Dec. 13, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Afterward, the children will join others in the lobby of the center to receive more presents and enjoy snacks while visiting Santa.
Some years ago, Angie Odom noticed how glum children of incarcerated parents appeared about the upcoming Christmas holidays. She’d meet these children through her work with the TLC Community Center and she got to wondering: What if there was a way for these kids to receive Christmas gifts from the center during a jail visit with the parent during the holidays?
“Kids can’t help parents’ decisions,” she explained. “At the community center, I saw that many children would watch Christmas movies and see decorations, and they’d say ‘I won’t see me mom or dad.’ Christmas is about families and these children are missing a part of theirs.”
Odom was able to work it out with the jail and for 11 years, the Christmas visits brought joy to both children and parents.
However, the event then became inactive for the last eight years when the sitting administration wasn’t interested in continuing.
Enter a new sheriff, Mike Fraley, who agreed to start the event up again, which has had Odom busy as a bee. “We are so grateful to Sheriff Fraley and his staff,” she said. “We were so excited he approved us to once again have the event.”
To get things started, Odom visited every cell block in the jail to get information on the inmates’ children. “The children, of course, are placed with others [sometimes] and are in all kinds of different places,” she said. “But even after Christmas, we will still be in touch to see if those kids need anything else.”
Odom was especially grateful to both city and county school districts for allowing these children to be excused from the classroom in order to attend the event and see their parents.
Appointments have been set for each of the 144 children to enjoy a video visit with the parent. During that visit, the child will be presented with presents so the child will associate that present with the parent. Odom said 75 inmates signed up their children.
When the visit is over, the child will be taken to the lobby to speak with and get a photograph with Santa. More gifts will await them and Gideons will be on hand to give out Bibles. Each child will also receive a “Bundle of Love” bag, which includes hygiene items, food, hats and gloves and more.
Odom and volunteers who work with her made up 1,500 Bundles of Love bags, which were donated by Northeast Credit Union. Americano Steakhouse in Roan Mountain provided money for the toys during an after-Thanksgiving fundraiser and Carter County Car Club helped supply funds for the toys as well. Stoney Creek’s Dollar General served as a toy dropoff area.
“Lots of different groups showed up to help us put this all together and we are so grateful,” Odom added. “It’s amazing at how many people in our community come out to help.”
TLC was able to get enough toys and bags for the prison visit as well as for the later big community Christmas event next Friday.
For more information, call 423-895-8601.

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