Unchained G.I.F.T. Wrapping party volunteers. Photo courtesy of Alyeska Dronsfield.

Unchained, a local Syracuse-based nonprofit ushers in the holiday season with its fifth annual Giving to Incarcerated Families Together (G.I.F.T) Gang Wrapping party days before Christmas.

The two-day event at the Syracuse Center for Peace and Social Justice started Tuesday and continues Thursday, from 5 to 7 p.m.  

The G.I.F.T. Gang Wrapping party is the organization’s way of bringing holiday joy to the children of incarcerated individuals. On Tuesday, the gift-wrapping party had a turnout of eight volunteers, and the organization encourages more volunteers to join tomorrow.

“What we try to do is bring the family aspect back into it and give our incarcerated members some decision-making of what they want to give their kids, which is really fun,” said Alyeska Dronsfield, Unchained’s communications specialist.

Through crowdfunding efforts online, the organization has raised over half of its intended $5,000 goal. All donations go toward the gift purchases for children with incarcerated guardians.  

 “This is also the most we’ve ever fundraised,” Dronsfield said. “This year we made about $2,800.”

Now in its fifth year, Unchained is dedicated to working on criminal justice and education reform. The organization’s mission is to bridge the gap to justice through policy advocacy by reframing societal stigmas surrounding incarcerated individuals, as well as families impacted by them.

Unchained was founded in 2018 by co-executive directors Derek and Emily Singletary, to provide quality resources to incarcerated people and humanize them through communal efforts. 

Currently the organization has 200 members, half of which are incarcerated and formerly incarcerated. 

Dronsfield said the gifts help children with incarcerated parents to feel special and know someone is thinking of them. A total of 47 children in the Syracuse area will receive gifts this year. 

Presents neatly wrapped by G.I.F.T. gang volunteers. Photo courtesy of Yolanda Stewart,

All gifts are expected to go out for delivery this Friday, just in time for Christmas. The organization is accepting donations until after the holidays.

Anyone interested in helping with Thursday’s gift wrapping event is invited to attend between 5 -7 p.m. at 2013 E. Genesee St. in Syracuse. 

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