Christmas in the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Center

If you have spent any time with Garry Glowacki, you know he isn’t a man who is easily surprised. Garry works with youth at risk and although he may not have seen it all, he has seen a lot of kids in prison and understands that they badly need to know people who can be trusted and who can offer support. The ‘inmates’ in this story are young boys, all from the GTA and living in a serious jail.

Many of us might not expect inspiration or enlightenment from these kids but even so, a remark by a seventeen-year-old opened Garry’s eyes in a new way.

THE BRIDGE Prison Ministry is sponsored by a number of people and groups who choose to believe in its work with offenders, ex-offenders and sometimes even the soon-to-be offenders. For Christmas 2008, Toronto and Niagara Anglican Dioceses and the Living Rock offered donations for youth at risk and ministry to incarcerated youth. On Christmas Eve Garry and Rev. Al (Youth Chaplin and Director of The Living Rock) visited every young boy in the jail and hand-delivered their simple gifts. The boys enjoyed the short and quick visits and spoke appreciatively of the presents they received. No computers, sound systems, sports equipment or other expensive and noisy things beloved of adolescent males. A brown paper bag with some candy, chips, shampoo, toothpaste, and comic book … things that are inexpensive but useful and maybe even interesting to the boys became Christmas presents.

Their obvious expressions of gratitude and their genuine “Thank You” were Garry’s first pleasant surprise. It was one of the boys that gave a second Christmas surprise to Garry.

“Hey, I’ve never had a Christmas present before!”

For all of us, that remark marks a jolt between our lives and the lives of others, especially youth in custody. While we try to tone down the excesses of the season, this lad reminds us that not everyone has the home and family support we take for granted.

While we no longer work with youth in Hamilton, we do try to provide for a meaningful Christmas through our annual dinner and gift bags for those who might not otherwise have a Christmas. A gift is its own sermon, a testament to the possibility of love in a world that has many lonely places. Will there be enough money in the budget? Maybe all of us can help with a Christmas contribution to bring some small gifts to men both in and out of custody and a chance to surprise Garry again!

See: How You can Help – To Donate