16,500 Prisoner Packets spreading hope behind bars

For nearly 50 years, SCBaptists have cooperated together to provide gifts for every inmate in South Carolina’s prison system.

“If you’ve ever wondered what it looks like for 150-plus Christ followers to get together and do something meaningful and impactful, you’re looking at it,” Tony Wolfe, SCBaptist executive director-treasurer, said.

This year, SCBaptists, partnering with several other faith communities in South Carolina, processed 16,500 Prisoner Packets that will be distributed by chaplains to each of the inmates across the state.

More than Meeting Needs

Sharon Patterson, an employee of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) for over 33 years, said this was her first year directly working with the packaging process. “This is an awesome job that you all have put together for the inmates with SCDC.”

The packets contain personal hygiene products, writing pads and utensils, and candy, along with a devotional guide written by the SCBaptist staff. Patterson explained that some inmates do not receive any packages from home but that the packets “show them that someone cares about them. That makes such a big difference around this time of the year,” she said.

Jon Jamison, SCBaptist Serve Team leader, says the Prisoner Packets are about more than simply meeting tangible needs. “We want to meet some tangible needs, but we also want to remind the inmates that we love them, that our churches love them, that God loves them, and remind them that hope is not lost,” Jamison said.

Distributing the Packets

Each year, the packets are distributed to inmates by regional chaplains. “As a chaplain, I’ve seen the men and women who receive this gift countdown the days as if it were Christmas day when they receive this gift,” Steven Hendrix said. “It’s so important to see men and women who may have lost the hope that Christmas brings to us as Christ followers see that somebody from the outside world in a church somewhere remembered them at Christmastime,” he explained.

For Hendrix, this has been almost a lifelong endeavor. As a child, he remembers collecting the items with his mother. Now, after being a chaplain for 10 years, he looks forward to this time every year as he now gets to hand-deliver the packets.

Encouraging and Caring for Inmates

Alongside the 163 volunteers, 21 South Carolina Department of Corrections institutions, and 41 SCBaptist associations, current and former inmates also worked to help process the packets. One current inmate said, “The holidays are a rough time for inmates, and, for some of us, this is the only gift we receive.”

He also explained how much he looked forward to receiving the devotional each year. “The holidays are a depressing time of the year, and those devotionals, it encourages you. It builds you up,” he said.

Wolfe said, “SCBaptists believe that every single person is created in the image of God and bears his likeness, and that means they are full of dignity and worthy of respect and our greatest efforts to do everything we can to reach them with the gospel, disciple them in the faith, and mobilize them to reach their neighbors and the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

— Anna Gardner is editorial specialist for the SCBaptist Creative Team.