HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis helped to make Christmas a little merrier for the children of some inmates housed at the Hancock County Jail.
The annual holiday church program brought Santa, gifts and Christmas refreshments to the jail for the children of inmates. It was a chance to bring families together that haven't seen one another in months.
An mp3 player a football and sports gloves all gifts from Santa that came as a surprise to Jamal and Jordan Ragsdale. But the biggest gift of all was getting to see their mom for the first time in a year.
Jamal Ragsdale said, "It's been hard."
His older brother Jordan said, "I really try not to think about it, I try to stay on the positive side."
Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis knows Christmas can be a tough time of the year for the families with a loved one behind bars. That's why it has put this program on for nearly 30 years.
Kimberly Bessey, Jamal and Jordan's mother who is an inmate at the jail said, "I think it's awesome that I got to see my kids today and visit for a whole hour, and they got gifts. It made Christmas a lot more bearable."
Her son, Jamal, echoed her words.
"It makes me feel happy. I can see my mom and get presents."
The church gesture put smiles on a lot of inmates faces and their children as well.
Inmate Kevin Boudreaux said while holding his toddler, "He was just a little baby when I seen him last, now he's all grown up walking and everything. It's been ten months since I've seen him."
Boudreaux also said, "I want to thank the church a lot for doing that for me. It's very nice of them all."
Christ Episcopal Church member Kathryn Larsen said, "We as a church have community out reach and this is one of our missions that we do and the facility provides an extra visitation for the inmates that they otherwise wouldn't have. So that's a gift within itself."
The church provided gifts for more than 50 inmates' children.
"The concept of the program is a good idea because the inmates don't have an opportunity to give back to their families while they are being supported being incarcerated. It's a good idea for the kids keep the family unit together," said Jail Warden Evan Hubbard.
Christ Episcopal began collecting donations from local businesses, church members and sheriff's deputies months ago to help put the Christmas program together.