Donations buy 72 Memphis children Christmas gifts from incarcerated parents

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When 12-year-old Andre Campbell saw his new scooter and video games for the first time, he was elated.

His 16-year-old sister, Kiara, was equally overjoyed to see her gifts.

"When I first got this, I started to cry," she said.

But her tears of joy tell only half the story.

The Zion Temple Church of God in Christ in Binghampton handed out $8,000 worth of Christmas gifts to 72 children Sunday.

"They're not members of the congregation," Elder Rosman Randle said. "Actually, they're persons who we actually know nothing about, and we just reach out to them. Our coordinators reach out to them."

The children weren't simply selected based on their need. Each of them has at least one parent behind bars.

"The gifts are from them, not from the church, but from the incarcerated parent, just to keep a connection with the children, with their parents while they're away," said Andrea Vandergrift with Zion Temple.

For the past three years, the church has been teaming up with the Angel Tree Prison Fellowship to make this happen. Randle said the number of kids participating has grown each year.

"The program is really good because a lot of kids don't get Christmas, and this is their Christmas," Kiara Campbell said.

Kiara and Andre's father has been in prison for the past four years.

Christmases without him are tough, they said, but made easier holding the gifts they know he wanted them to have.

"It means that he still cares about us," Andre Campbell said. "It means that he still cares about us, and he still loves us."

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