Hope Packs let every inmate receive mail during the holiday season at ACRJ

Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 5:31 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Volunteers at Christ Community Church in Charlottesville packed more than 500 Hope Packs Monday, December 12, for people who work or are being held at Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail. These packs are filled with things like treats, books, crossword puzzles, and quotes from other inmates.

“That is the beauty of the Hope Pack, that every inmate is going to receive a gift this Christmas. Even if just for the day, it changes the entire environment of a cellblock,” ACRJ Chaplain Van Arsdale said. “I know personally how important Hope Packs are. I’ve received a Hope Pack myself three years in a row from Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Last year, I thought to myself - it was my first year as a chaplain, and was coming up to Christmas - and I thought, ‘Man, why can’t we do Hope Packs here?’”

Volunteers came from all over central Virginia to help send out more these packs.

“I have my daughter who’s 3 helping me pack a bag and praying over the bag,” Arsdale said. “I just want to invite the rest of the Charlottesville-Albemarle, even Nelson County community to be involved in sending Hope Packs.”

“There are parents here, because their kids are incarcerated,” ACRJ Senior Chaplain Joseph Varaksa said. “That alone speaks volumes, because it not only helping their kid but helping other people inside.”

A total of around 50,000 Hope Packs will be sent to more than 20 countries this year after the idea was brought up at a conference.

“We brought up this idea, and they notice that we got these bags out. They were like, ‘How did you do that?’ And then Van gave his testimony, saying, ‘I got this in jail. I know what it meant to me.’ And we’re a chaplains’ conference with all these chaplains from all over the country and the globe looking at this and saying, ‘Well, why aren’t we doing this?’ And on the spot, we start ordering bags at that conference,” Varaksa said.

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