"I grew up without a dad in my life and I saw my mom struggle, so I can only imagine how hard it is for these families," said Mucher, an Oakley resident. "I knew I had to help."
The Angel Tree Program is a nationwide prison fellowship organization that connects parents in prison with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts.
Incarcerated parents interested in participating give the organization's ministers information about their child or children. That information is passed on to volunteers who choose from a list of children, and then purchase and wrap the gifts, delivering them on behalf of the imprisoned parent.
Last year Mucher, an Antioch Middle School teacher, provided sponsors and gifts for approximately a dozen local children. This year the need is even greater, she said.
"Last season we had more sponsors than children, but this time it's the reverse," said Mucher, who believes the slow response may simply be that it is still early in the season. "I'm sure people will begin to come forward now that the holidays are here."
There are 152 children in Antioch, 14 in Oakley and 17 in Pittsburg who have an incarcerated parent and are in need of an angel, according to Mucher. And while the commitment involved with being a volunteer is minimal, the impact on the beneficiaries is enormous.
"I've taken gifts to families who are pretty much living day to day," said Mucher. "And seeing their faces when I arrive with gifts is unbelievable."
Recipients' responses run the gamut from embarrassment and quiet thanks to others who literally spin cartwheels when the gifts arrive. Mucher has even had parents tell her that their children aren't in need of the program, but offer their assistance to benefit someone else.
The spirit of giving, said Mucher, is presented in so many ways.
"A program like this really makes people reach into their hearts," said Mucher. "It's so neat to be able to say to a child that this gift is from your parent."
Mucher admits that there have been situations in which volunteers have struggled with the thought of giving a gift on behalf of a felon. A close friend of hers was interested in helping, but wasn't keen on the idea of benefiting someone who had a committed a crime.
"I told my friend that you can't look at it that way," said Mucher. "It's about the children; it's the kids who are doing the hard time. He ended up being fine with it; in fact, he is volunteering again this year."
With the help of groups such as Realtors and fire and police departments, Mucher is working hard to the get the word out. So far she has recruited family, friends and co-workers to take up the cause, and more volunteers are welcome and needed.
To ensure that gifts are delivered by Christmas, Mucher suggests volunteers have their packages wrapped and ready for delivery by December 22. Packages can be delivered either by the volunteers themselves or Mucher.
"We can make whatever arrangements are necessary to get the gifts to the children," said Mucher. "It's up to the volunteers what they want to do."
To sign up to be a volunteer, contact Mucher at email@example.com.
Another way to get involved is to attend the worship event at the Rivers Edge Community Church, 4501 O'Hara Avenue in Brentwood, on Dec. 2, with all proceeds benefiting the Angel Tree Program. It will feature musical artists from area churches, and admission is $10 at the door, $8 in advance, or free with the donation of a new toy. Doors open at 7 p.m. Call 634-6350 for additional information.