In January 1997, Rick Cryder, a retired advertising agency artist, wanted to make a difference in his community. In accomplishing this goal, he recruited several volunteers and initiated the “Angels of Love” program. Some of those original volunteers include Keith Griess, Harry Rogers, Ken Serapin and Willy Zoeller. Over the years, Angels of Love volunteers have handcrafted thousands of stained glass angels and distributed them to families of children with life-threatening illnesses. The angels provide a sense of love, hope, peace and comfort for dealing with the potential loss of a child.
While continuing to serve hospitalized children, the angel project has expanded its outreach to families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty, be it law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and most recently, members of the armed forces who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our great nation. The handcrafted angels help console the families of these fallen heroes.
As interest in the Angels of Love program grew, it became obvious that the six volunteers who initiated the project needed to expand their numbers to better serve the community. In responding to this challenge, a proposal to generate volunteer support was submitted to the Correctional Programs Unit of the James A. Musick Facility.
The Musick Facility is a minimum-security jail operated by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. It is unusual for a jail facility to undertake a project as described above due to the materials utilized to produce the angels, but after careful consideration, the proposal was approved in February 2001. Two Correctional Programs technicians and the founder of the Angels of Love program, Rick Cryder, were assigned to instruct classes for the male and female inmates, teaching them the art of creating stained glass angels. In serving as volunteers, inmates are offered an opportunity to contribute to the betterment of the community and to become a positive force within society. Over the years, more than 960 inmates have volunteered their time, talents and efforts to handcraft 6,800 angels that have been delivered to local hospitals for distribution to seriously ill children and their families.
On May 31, 2004, in observance of Memorial Day, 1,057 angels were dedicated to the men and women of our armed forces who died in the line of duty serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The families of each deceased service member received an angel with their appropriate service insignia. In addition to working with Musick Facility inmates, Cryder has implemented the Angels of Love program at the Orange County Probation Department’s Joplin Youth Center (JYC) and Youth Guidance Center (YGC). JYC is a juvenile correctional institution that provides residential treatment for teenage boys ages 13 to 17. YGC offers rehabilitation programs for both girls and boys, ages 11 to 18 years of age. Under Cryder’s guidance, troubled teens create “Angels of Love” and personally deliver them to families whose children are receiving treatment at local hospitals. The experience has been life changing for teens in the probation system that have discovered the importance of volunteering and learned the value of reaching out to help others in the community.