Beth Watson: Christmas for Kids


Beth Watson: Christmas for Kids

When a person goes to prison, there is a more than 30% chance that it won’t be the last time. The revolving door of recidivism keeps Florida’s prisons near capacity – and without sobriety, proper identification, marketable workforce skills and a welcoming family and community, the success rate for reentry into society can be dismal.

Our client, Bridges of America, works with tens of thousands of Florida’s inmates every year to help make sure the elements for success are in place. Chief among them is the issue of family reunification. By the time a person is handed a lengthy sentence, most family relationships are fractured and another generation of children of incarcerated parents will lack that influence in their lives.

Bridges of America’s CEO, Lori Costantino-Brown, was such a child. Her father spent many years in Florida prisons prior to his release and founding of the organization. So at this time of year, Lori always reflects back to the first Christmas her father was behind bars.

She was six years old and had siblings who were four, two and a newborn baby. Her mother was unemployed and they often did not know where the next meal was coming from. She knew better than to expect anything for Christmas, even though kids at school were talking about family holiday plans and lists for Santa. Lori’s worry was when their utilities would be turned on again.

It was that way for five long years. Lori says she would never wish that sadness upon anyone, let alone a child.

This December thousands of children will visit a parent at one of the 13 Bridges of America programs throughout the state. The families will enjoy a nice meal, take photos with Santa, and spend the day playing games and enjoying each other’s company. At the conclusion of the day, each child will leave with a brand-new wrapped Christmas gift. For many of the children, this is the only gift they will receive, and the only holiday celebration they will experience.

Lori and the whole Bridges of America team need your help to ensure Christmas Family Day is special for every family who walks through the door. Every dime of every donation will be used to provide gifts and holiday parties for the children.

You can donate online or mail a check payable to Bridges of America to the address below. Please note “Christmas for Kids” in the memo line.

Mailing Address:

Bridges of America
Corporate Office
2001 Mercy Drive
Orlando, FL 32808

I have had the privilege of working with the Bridges team for nearly three years and have learned so much about making mistakes, redemption and the ripple effect among families with the littlest victims. Among the checks I’m lucky enough to be able to write during this holiday season will be to this “Christmas for Kids” fund. I want these children to know that, despite what they are living through, there are people out there who believe in them and want them to have a merry Christmas.

In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “It is in giving that we receive.”