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Inmates get in touch with their creative side to support Festiva - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Inmates get in touch with their creative side to support Festival of Trees

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BILLINGS - Of the 40 trees set to be part of the 2017 Festival of Trees at the MetraPark Expo Center this weekend, one had its beginnings at the Passages correctional facility for women.

This year's tree decorated by the facility is a tribute to past and present members of the United States military.

"We're going to have dog tags so when people go through the Festival of Trees, they can write in a name of somebody and hang it on our tree. It's really just to pay tribute and show honor and thanks for having our freedom because of these people,” said Melissa Luque, Passages recreation manager.

It may seem like a simple arts and crafts activity, but it means so much more to the inmates. 

"I find so much joy when you see their faces when they've accomplished something. Something as simple to us as a Christmas bulb, and they're excited about what they got to create," Luque said.

Their creations will help the Family Tree Center, whose mission is to build stronger families and prevent child abuse and neglect.

"It makes me feel very good that we can be a part of something, because most of us in the system have been neglected ourselves, or come from abusive backgrounds, so it's really touching and honoring that we get to support other families," said Jessica Moore, an inmate at Passages.

"I grew up in a good home, but there was some problems, so just to know that I can help somebody out like me, it feels really good," said Passages inmate Nicklette Gann.  

The holiday activity is coming just at the right time, as some of the women prepare to enter pre-release programs.

"It's terrible missing my kids, and I haven't seen them since last October, so this will be the best Christmas ever. It's the perfect Christmas present and I get out right before Christmas, so that will be great," said Rhonda Williams, who entered the Passages program in March of 2017.  

Inmate Jessica Moore has multiple reasons to celebrate.

"I've missed the last three or four Christmases, so I'm very excited to get to Butte and just to have a new journey. I'll have 15 months clean on the 29th of this month, so I'm very excited for my new start," Moore said.

The Festival of Trees kicks off Thursday, Nov. 30 at the MetraPark Expo Center with the gala and tree auction.

Festivities continue on Friday, Dec. 1 with Tea in the Trees from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Enjoy a relaxing afternoon of tea, coffee, cider and deserts for $12 at the door.

Q2’s Victoria Hill will emcee the event, which and includes a fashion show, door prizes and silent auction.

Public viewing begins at 3 p.m. Friday, along with a craft and gift show.

Admission is $3 per person, or $10 per family with two adults, and children 6 and under free.

The fun picks up at 5 p.m. with family fun night and entertainment until 8 p.m.

On Saturday you can enjoy the trees and entertainment all day long from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m..

You can also have brunch with Santa from 11 a.m. 1 p.m.

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