Going to the Boone County jail was a privilege and a blessing for Betty Brandenstein.

She wasn’t an inmate. She was a volunteer with the Christmas at the Jail program.

“You could feel the genuine need and appreciation from the inmate’s families,” she said. “It was a wonderful afternoon.”

In its sixth year, Christmas at the Jail continues to put a smile on the face of children of inmates. The jail task force accepts donations from churches to purchase gifts for kids who have a parent incarcerated during the holidays. And upon a visit to see mom or dad, they get to pick out a present.

“Each inmate’s child gets at least one toy,” said senior jail chaplain Mike Goforth. “The intent is, it’s from the inmate.”

The gifts range from coloring books to stuffed animals — to toys from Wendy’s kid’s meals.

“My aunt eats at Wendy’s,” Goforth said. “She must have had at least 50 fun meal toys for me.”

“It’s not a great big toy,” Goforth’s aunt, Pat Crausare, said, “but if they don’t have anything, it’s great.”

The task force also decorated a tree in the lobby. Gifts fill tables, and holiday music plays.

“There’s a festivity about it,” Goforth said. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, mommy or daddy is in jail.’ But to know someone cares for them and their family, it seems to be a real shot in the arm.”

Two-hour shifts are staffed by volunteers from local churches, like Brandenstein.

“Many compliments were given about the gifts (the children) had to choose from,” Brandenstein said. “They thought it was so wonderful that the Boone County churches didn’t forget the inmates.”

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