Couple continues annual Christmas jail ministry

Phil Campbell resident Jocelynn Edmonds has an unusual-to-most Christmas tradition: Each year, she spends a portion of the day at the Franklin County Detention Center in ministry to those incarcerated there.

“This was my 10th year to go,” explained Edmonds. Eleven years ago, she spent Christmas in jail but not by choice. After becoming addicted to pain medication legally prescribed over the course of several surgeries, she ultimately found herself wanted for crimes related to maintaining the addiction. When she saw herself on the Alabama’s Most Wanted list, she decided to turn herself in. Incarcerated and then in rehab for a year, she has now been free from addiction since Nov. 5, 2012.

Edmonds and her husband Greg gave out 87 gift bags, one to each inmate. Each bag contained a Pepsi, a Bible scripture, bath towel, pair of socks, body wash, four Little Debbie cakes, two packs of crackers and a devotional and a prayer journal.

She said many volunteers helped make the donation possible this year.

This year was the first for Jocelynn to be joined by her husband in the annual ministry.

“My husband Greg Edmonds, who is also in recovery and works with me to do what we can to help others, was able to minister to the men while I ministered to the women,” she explained. “It’s really special to me that he felt led to do it and that the administration allowed it.”

Greg said he was “overwhelmed with so many forms of gratitude while visiting and sharing with the guys.”

“They were very thankful and appreciative,” add Jocelynn. “It blessed Greg so much to be able to participate, too, and it blesses me, of course, every year. We’re so thankful for the jail administrator, Theresa Qualls, and assistant administrator, Felicia Tidwell, for allowing us to keep coming every Christmas.”

For Jocelynn, the annual Christmas ministry is part of her sobriety. She said her desire is “to show the love of Christ” and “to give an opportunity to come to know the Lord, if they want to” – something that was key to her own recovery and guides her life and mission now.

“I surrendered my life to God (while incarcerated and in rehab),” she explained, “and when I came home, I knew my calling was to help others like me.” Since 2018 her personal ministry, The Place of Grace, has operated as a nonprofit and continues to see increasing support from others who want to support her in her goals.

Community Church at Hackleburg has partnered with Jocelynn by donating the land for a physical center for The Place of Grace. Other churches are also helping support her work. The facility broke ground Feb. 10, 2022, and when complete, it will provide a nine-month in-house program for women wanting help to recover from drugs and alcohol.

Contractor Greg Hovater is about to start enclosing the building with the metal, windows and doors, which Jocelyn said they hope will be finished by the end of this month. Though the project is still a little short in funding, she said she is confident God will make a way.

For more information about The Place of Grace, call 256-668-5390 or visit the nonprofit’s Facebook page or website.