Angel Tree effort provides gifts, food to children with parents who are incarcerated

Posted at 9:37 AM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 09:37:14-05

(WXYZ) — "This is where I have kind of my workshop is what I call it, and this is where we have all the gifts for the families," said Liz Rito.

For four years, Liz has been the Chris Kringle of sorts for an effort called Angel Tree at First United Methodist Church in Birmingham.

"This is the culmination of my year, this is the culmination of what Christmas is supposed to be, where we give and love and just cherish the moments with each other and fellowship with those that are around us in our community," she said.

Liz chairs a local chapter of the National Prison Fellowship Angel Tree program; their efforts are aimed at strengthening the bond between those incarcerated and their children during the holiday season.

"This is a part of the year where the prisoners can reach out to their families by sending them gifts and getting in touch with them," she said.

This year, Liz and her team were able to help make the seasons a little brighter for about 500 children and their families. From food bags to personally-delivered presents and online gifts – the effort is quite the undertaking.

"I have a team of people and we call all these individual caregivers and we get all the information for wants and needs for each of the children in their house ... from there, I put all of the data into a spreadsheet and then ... I print out little labels and I put them on angels and we have Angel Tree Sunday here at church," said Liz.

Whatever the need, Liz and her team work hard to make it happen.

"Knowing all these extra people and the love that they have for Angel Tree, I can call them up and say, 'hey, I need a bed,' and somehow a bed just shows up," she said.

And at the end, dozens of families come together to hand deliver the gifts to people across the community.

"It's lovely to be able to interact with these families and ... you kind of get to be like Santa for a day, and it's really exciting," she said. "It's just it's such a blessing. And it's ... so rewarding to know that we have done something good for the community."

And as one mission comes to a close for this season, soon enough Liz and her team will set their sights on Angel Tree planning for next year.

If you want to help with their efforts, head to and then click "Give Online," fill out the form, put the amount you'd like to donate in the "Other" section and type "Angel Tree" in the "Define Other Contribution" section.