Volunteers prep thousands of 'Hope Packs' for prisoners

  • Ava Ko, 11, of Schaumburg, a member of the Junior High Ministry at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, assembles a bag filled with snacks and gifts Sunday during an event to pack care packages called Hope Packs for incarcerated people.

    Ava Ko, 11, of Schaumburg, a member of the Junior High Ministry at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, assembles a bag filled with snacks and gifts Sunday during an event to pack care packages called Hope Packs for incarcerated people. Ryan Rayburn for the Daily Herald

  • These boxes filled with care packs are destined for the Cook County jail. They were assembled over the weekend by volunteers at Willow Creek Community Church, as part of the 10th annual Hope Packs program which sends holiday care packages to incarcerated people across the state.

    These boxes filled with care packs are destined for the Cook County jail. They were assembled over the weekend by volunteers at Willow Creek Community Church, as part of the 10th annual Hope Packs program which sends holiday care packages to incarcerated people across the state. Ryan Rayburn for the Daily Herald

  • Volunteers prepare care packages Sunday during the 10th annual Hope Packs event at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington.

    Volunteers prepare care packages Sunday during the 10th annual Hope Packs event at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington. Ryan Rayburn for the Daily Herald

  • Holiday care packages fill a box after being prepared Sunday at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington.

    Holiday care packages fill a box after being prepared Sunday at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington. Ryan Rayburn for the Daily Herald

  • Richard Van Arsdale, right, a chaplain at the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry in Virginia, holds a Hope Pack on stage Sunday with South Barrington campus pastor Shawn Williams during a church service before an event to pack care packages called Hope Packs for incarcerated people.

    Richard Van Arsdale, right, a chaplain at the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry in Virginia, holds a Hope Pack on stage Sunday with South Barrington campus pastor Shawn Williams during a church service before an event to pack care packages called Hope Packs for incarcerated people. Ryan Rayburn for the Daily Herald

 
Updated 12/5/2022 4:28 PM

It doesn't take much sometimes to save someone's life.

Sometimes a box of snacks, a holiday card and a book can bridge the gap from despair to hope.

 

With that in mind, about 2,500 volunteers at Willow Creek Community Church's seven Chicago-area campuses spent the weekend preparing what they call "Hope Packs" for every incarcerated person in Illinois, as well some in other states.

Now in its 10th year, the Hope Packs program was created by Willow Creek's Prison & Jail Ministry in hopes of easing the sense of isolation many incarcerated people face during the holidays.

"We want to break the cycle of loneliness that happens for people who are behind bars at Christmastime," said Stacey Kidd of Lake Zurich, a volunteer leader.

Each of the Hope Packs prepared Saturday and Sunday contains a Christmas card, treats and the Armor Book, a compilation of puzzles, original artwork, poems, inspirational stories, devotionals, and biblical concepts -- many of which are submissions from incarcerated individuals.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Hope Packs program has grown to include other organizations, and together they'll distribute packages to an estimated 82,400 people in 14 states.

Among the past recipients is Richard Van Arsdale, a former inmate who's now chaplain for the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry in Virginia. At Willow Creek's South Barrington campus Sunday, Van Arsdale said he served time after being arrested in connection with a shooting during a drug deal gone bad.

"I did not shoot the gun, but because I drove the car away, I was viewed as just as guilty," he said. "And so I went from college to jail overnight."

He called the Hope Pack he received a huge encouragement and reminder of what Christmas is about.

"I'm excited to help distribute hundreds of these bags to the inmates at the facility where I am now a chaplain," he added.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Junior high school students were part of Sunday's packing event.

"This gives them a chance to participate in how we can show people the love of God at Christmas, to bring hope, for them to realize that they can make a difference as a sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grader," said Gretchen Dedina, director of Willow Creek's junior high ministry,

Lili Manalang, a 12-year-old student at Helen Keller Junior High in Schaumburg, was among the young volunteers working in assembly-line fashion to fill boxes with Hope Packs.

"I really enjoy bringing hope to people, knowing that someone's going to have a good Christmas because of us," she said

"In 30 minutes of your time, you can really make a difference to someone's life," added Benjamin Charly, a 13-year-old student at Canton Middle School in Streamwood.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.