Local church donates presents to inmates’ children

Growing up,

Lisa Barger

couldn’t always count on having a merry Christmas.

Her mother was in and out of jail for drugs, she said.

But Barger remembers how she felt when a local church invited her to a worship service to receive what she said was the best present ever: God’s love.

She’s been going to church ever since.

On Wednesday night, she and others gathered at New Life Assembly of God in Seymour to share that love. For many years now, the church has collected and wrapped Christmas gifts for children of inmates in the Jackson County Jail.

“I know how these kids feel,” Barger said. “There were a lot of churches and schools that helped me when I was a kid, so I know how happy they will be.”

Pastor Steve Hyer said more than 110 children of all ages will receive the gifts, which he and other area pastors will deliver to the children at their homes before Christmas.

Some presents will be shipped to other states,

he added.

“We’ve sent gifts as far as California before,” he said.

All the gifts were bought and donated by members of New Life Assembly, Seymour Harvest and other churches in the community.

Inmates had to request the presents for their children and attend one of the services at the jail in Brownstown in order to be eligible for

the service.

Hyer helped start the jail ministry there when the new facility opened in 2000.

“What these children really need is a parent with a new lease on life, and Jesus can deliver that,”

Hyer said.

Kim Steinkamp of Seymour said she heard about the program from her cousin, who had met Pastor Hyer, and felt in her heart she needed to help.

So she got the name of a 13-year-old girl in need of a present, but she had no idea where to start.

“I had a son and grandsons and had never shopped for a girl that age,” she said.

Steinkamp said she called Hyer while she was at Walmart and told him she may have to choose a boy instead because she didn’t know what a 13-year-old girl would like.

“He said lets pray about it right now and let God help you decide,” she said.

After praying with Hyer over her cellphone in the middle of a store aisle, she decided to go ahead and shop for the young girl and a boy, too.

She ended up buying an art set, a beautiful silver cross necklace and a fashionable white scarf.

“The Lord directed me, so I thank him,” she said.

There’s no better feeling than knowing you are helping a child in need at Christmas, she added.

“This has put such joy in my heart,” Steinkamp said. “These children have endured more than they should, and it’s not about what an inmate has or hasn’t done.

“It’s about blessing one of God’s children.”

Angela Smith wasn’t too impressed with her wrapping skills but said she has yet to meet a kid who is worried about how the present is wrapped.

“They’re just going to tear it off and throw the paper away anyway,” she said. “It’s what’s inside that matters.”

This is the third or fourth year Smith said she’s helped wrap gifts for the church and said it makes the Christmas season even

more special.

“I think it’s important to remember that it’s not the children’s fault that their parents are incarcerated,” she said. “This is a way to touch them at a time they are sad.”

Instead of saying the presents are from Santa,

the church likes to tell

the children they are

from Jesus.

“We want these children to know that Jesus loves them, and there are people in this community that care about them very much,” Hyer said.

The church is still accepting donations with a need for gifts for older teenagers.

How to help

Anyone wanting to donate can contact Pastor Steve Hyer at 522-8273 or drop off gifts at New Life Assembly of God at 800 Brookhaven Drive behind Seymour Middle School.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.