Eastern State Penitentiary holds annual toy drive for children with incarcerated parents

Eastern State Penitentiary gates are open to show people what life was like for prisoners years ago. But an important part of what they do now is connecting people to those that are currently incarcerated.

While they do that they are asking people to give back to the children whose parents are locked up.

For nearly a decade, Eastern State Penitentiary has been collecting toys for children whose parents were recently or still are incarcerated. 

"This is our way to bring a little bit of joy to those families that are separated by incarceration during this holiday season," said Brian Bertolino the VP and Director of Operations.

FOX 29's Eddie Kadhim talked with some of the families whose holiday season has been brightened by the donations.

Shermane Benson’s son has been in prison for most of his four children's lives. She’s thankful he will be out soon and for the Christmas gifts, the kids receive.

"He’s been gone for nine years and it’s so important with his children to have a good Christmas birthday everything," said Benson."Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the hardest holidays to get through."

The historical site is popular for Al Capone’s old cell and the spooky Haloween tours. During the holidays, they focus their attention on what life is like for prisoners during the holidays.

"We have some letter writing to people who are currently incarcerated," said Bertolino.  "As well as our partners Down North Pizza and Triple Bottom Brewing, they are both fair chance employers that hire formerly incarcerated people."

They partner with organizations that help families of those incarcerated or who are transitioning like TCRC Community Healing Center.

"Not only for those who are in prison but for those who are coming home," said Jondhi Harrell the executive director of TCRC.  "When you first come home you have to find a job to normalize life and reconnect with your family.  Christmas time for kids is a highlight of the year."

If you donate a toy you get a buy one get one daytime tour admission ticket.

You can also mail a toy to:

ATTN: Toy Drive

Eastern State Penitentiary

2027 Fairmount Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19130



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