These Christmas trees are for 'angels'

December 01, 2004|STEPHEN BURNETT

If you've been doing any early gift shopping this month, chances are you've seen them in some area stores: Christmas trees with sheets of paper carrying the names of needy children.

They're part of the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program, part of the 2004 Angels of Hope outreach.

On the angel forms are the names and ages of needy children in the area, along with what he or she would like to have for Christmas.

"You take an angel and you're able to represent the children," said Zachary Bell, captain of the Salvation Army, whose wife, Captain Shelley Bell, coordinates the program.

You'll find the trees at stores like Wal-Mart, Kroger, Goody's, Ace Hardware or Food Lion. And you can fill out the forms and purchase gifts anytime until Friday, Dec. 17.


You can either drop off the gifts at the Salvation Army headquarters, or just at the store where you've bought the gift, Bell said.

The Salvation Army will distribute the gifts to the children on Dec. 20.

"We'll try to make sure that these kids have a decent Christmas," Bell added, "and the Angel Tree is a part of that."

1,000 children this year

They've signed up more than 1,000 children this year, Bell said. That represents about 800 families - "the most kids we've ever had signed up in the history of this community to date."

And they're expecting 100 more families to sign up during the next month.

"We're really needing the community to once again come to bat for the Salvation Army," Bell said.

"The Christmas season should never be a time of need. There shouldn't be sadness or sorrow, because you're celebrating the hope of the seasons and the hope that we find in Jesus Christ, who was born on Christmas Day."

Area churches and business are helping with the project, like Becky Shay, a human resource administrator with the Timberland distribution center in Danville.

"This year we have anywhere between probably about 14 or 15 'angels,'" Shay said. "Sometimes the whole department will go together and adopt an angel."

So what are on children's wish lists this year?

Shay listed a few: "They ask for Barbie dolls, musical toys, clothes, trucks, cars, bicycles, shoes, coats, any kind of clothes, any kind of dolls, Ninja Turtles - all sorts of stuff."

Shelley Bell had more to add. "With the younger children, you see a lot of Elmo, and Leap Pads," she said. "And older kids start to want game systems, and a lot of bikes.

"I've already had, I think, 20 to 25 bikes come back," she added, laughing. "It's amazing what people will get. Let's see: with the girls, a lot of dolls," and for the boys, "a lot of Spider-Man this year."

You can also buy clothes for the children. The angel papers include the children's clothing sizes.

"Forgotten Angels"

Shelley Bell added that along with angel papers for specific children, they have broader categories of "Forgotten Angels."

Those are for late entries, and to replace the estimated one-fourth of angel forms that disappear from the trees without resulting in gifts for the child.

"Some of those (papers) will have age categories, such as 'Girl, four years old,'" Bell said. Then you could purchase a generic gift like a doll or clothing item for the child - even without the exact clothing size.

The Angel Tree program is a fraction of the Salvation Army's work this month, Zachary Bell said.

"Each of the kids will get at least three big toy gifts, and then two clothing outfits," he said. "They'll get a whole meal - turkey and everything else - and the adults will also have a gift, with wrapping paper and all that good stuff."

Needy families will also receive donations through kettles.

"This is the only community that has 100 percent volunteer kettles in the state of Kentucky," Bell said.

"A lot of Salvation Armies have to pay their workers to be volunteers.

"I've never seen anything like this," he added. "I was just blown away - although I shouldn't have been shocked, because this community is that good."

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