First Christmas in 32 Years

Marissa Wells

First Christmas in 32 Years

 

Holidays at A New Way of Life (ANWOL) are always special for our women and their children. This Christmas, Ms. Mattie, ANWOL’s newest resident, is able to experience the holiday beyond the walls of prison. She is one of the many women who thought they would spend the rest of their life behind bars.

Ms. Mattie, who was released from prison just last week, says that freedom is her gift this holiday season.

The stories that she heard about what life is like for those trying to reintegrate into society made her a little apprehensive about leaving prison.

“I really didn’t know what to expect because you hear all kinds of different stories about how it’s worse than being in prison,” said Mattie. “Then you think, ‘Well, why would I want to go home if I’m going to be more locked down than I am here.’”

When Ms. Mattie arrived to her new home at ANWOL, she was greeted by warm smiles and familiar faces.  When she saw some of the women that she served time with in prison she was overcome with emotion and filled with optimism about her new journey.

“I walked in the door and they all jumped up and started saying, ‘Aww Mattie! Mattie!’ and that made my heart so full,” explains Mattie.

The excitement and warmth that she was experiencing from her new ANWOL family carried into the next day when Mattie attended her first All of Us or None Meeting. Ms. Burton introduced Mattie to the organization and the members welcomed her with open arms and applause.

This meeting was the organization’s end of the year gathering where they celebrated the accomplishments of the year and handed out certificates of appreciation to some of the leaders of the Long Beach and Los Angeles chapters.

Gifts were also passed out at the meeting via a raffle. Mattie’s number was the 4th ticket to be called.

“I went up there and Ingrid handed me this big gift and said ‘this is a beautiful gift’ and I said ‘just being here is a beautiful gift for me.’”

Mattie (right) receiving a gift from Ingrid (left)

As other numbers were called, many of the other members that went to retrieve their gift, then gave it to Mattie.

“I can’t even describe how it felt. These people didn’t even know me, but they made me feel like I was one of them and a part of them,” explains Mattie.

In prison, Christmas is just another day for the women. Directors of ANWOL recognize and understand this and make sure that the women in their homes are able to celebrate the holiday. Every year, ANWOL residents and their children are able to create a wish list of items that they would like for Christmas. The gifts on their lists are donated by organizations such as Women of Compassion, Park Windsor, and Lincoln Memorial.

Ms. Mattie received everything she placed on her list, but the ultimate gift she’s getting this year is the love and support to spend the holiday with her son after being away for 32 years.

“This Christmas I have so much to be thankful for. I don’t try to look backwards because that time is over and I can only look forward to the future,” said Mattie. “I have people that are showing me that even though I spent all that time in prison that there’s still good in the world. There are still people that care and are willing to be there for you if you need them. This is such a blessed Christmas for me.”

All of Us or None members

This Christmas please remember your incarcerated loved ones. Your outreach could be just the encouragement they need to push through another holiday season away from home.

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