They’re modest gifts.
Socks stuffed with soap, shampoo, candy, playing cards.
But they’re assembled with love, by a group of family and friends led by Phil and Dorothy Boucher of Kennewick.
And to inmates at the Benton and Franklin county jails and the juvenile justice center, they’re something special.
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A sign of hope. A sign they aren’t forgotten at Christmas.
“We’re so blessed,” Phil Boucher said. And giving back, helping others — that’s an essential part of their lives and their Christian faith.
The Christmas gift project began years ago. Phil and Dorothy, both 83, were leaders at Cathedral of Joy, now called Hillspring Church.
One year, Phil spotted a fellow church member assembling gifts. “I asked what he was doing. He said he was putting together bags for prisoners,” Phil recalled.
The Bouchers soon began shepherding the project, helping collect and assemble gifts to be distributed on Christmas Eve.
It’s a sheer act of love.
Cindie Preszler, longtime family friend of the Bouchers
In recent years, an independent Bible study group that includes the Bouchers and some family and friends have kept it going.
This year, the group got help from EastLake Tri-Cities, which kicked in about $1,500.
The Richland church looks to work with people and groups in the community who are making a difference, said Pastor Brent Johnsen.
The Bouchers acknowledge that inmates aren’t the most sympathetic group. They’re behind bars because they’ve broken the law.
But God loves them still, the couple said. And to the Bouchers, Scripture is clear.
The Bible book of Matthew, chapter 25, talks about the sick and imprisoned. “If you visit one of those people, Jesus says, ‘You’re visiting me,’” Phil Boucher said.
Phil and Dorothy both hail from Colorado, though they grew up in different parts of the state.
Their paths crossed in college and they married in 1954. They settled in the Tri-Cities in the 1960s.
Now great-grandparents, Phil and Dorothy are at the center of a large, loving, close-knit family.
“They’re absolute heroes in my life,” said grandson Adam Brault, founder of &yet in Richland.
“When I look at the way the two of them live their lives — the generosity they show — I feel a high degree of responsibility to continue the legacy,” he said.
700 Number of socks stuffed with soap, shampoo, candy bars for Tri-City inmates
Cindie Preszler, a longtime family friend, described the Bouchers as tenacious and dedicated. The Christmas project “has been a passion,” she said. “As the years have come and gone, different people have been involved and then moved onto something else. They’ve been the consistency, the glue that made it happen. It’s a sheer act of love.”
About 700 socks stuffed with soap, shampoo, candy bars and other items are expected be distributed to inmates today.
Asked why they’ve stayed committed to the project for so long, Dorothy said her family is an inspiration. She and Phil try to be examples of service.
The younger generations “see us (helping others), and decide that’s the way they want to live their lives,” she said.
Phil talked about a man he knew who spent time behind bars. He talked about a woman in jail who burst into tears when she received her modest Christmas gift. He talked about God.
“It’s something we feel is important,” Phil said.
When it comes to service, he said, “you have to choose something.”