Although I don’t generally engage with the Salvation Army, Angel Tree has been a staple for my family’s Christmas my whole life.
My dad (who I think might have been a literal angel) never wanted anything for Christmas. Instead he asked that each of his kids pick an Angel Tree kid and take Mom shopping to get what they wanted. After he died we continued to do it in his memory. (And now I’m tearing up like the sap I am.)
Angel Tree has a counterpart in the Christmas Mother program in my home town. There’s likely something similar wherever you are too. The concept is simple. Parents who can’t afford to give their kids the Christmas they want sign up with the program. They list their kids’ ages, clothing sizes, and a few toys that each kid wants more than anything. The Angel Tree program then puts all this information on a tag and the tags get dispersed around town to hang on trees at donation sites (usually malls and banks). You go and pick one, sign it out with the volunteers, and do your shopping.
This program actually takes place in November, at least in my area, and donations have to be returned by the second of December. But you can help Angel Tree by volunteering with the program. Kevin and I volunteered last year with distribution and, although I was nervous, it was a pretty cool experience. There are lots of positions so you if you’re not comfortable with interacting with people you can help sort gifts or manage lists.
Personally, I always chose older kids. It seems that people tend to pick younger children for most projects so I make a point of grabbing the oldest one on the tree. They might not believe in Santa, but they’re going to be much more acutely aware of an absence.
it’s a bit late for Angel Tree this year, since the drop off date about the 15th, but it’s not too late yet!
Angel Tree is a program run by the Salvation Army who, yes, are problematic, but since no money goes through the SA, I feel comfortable recommending this project.
While he was alive, my dad always asked for Angel Tree as his Christmas gift, so it became family tradition for my younger sister and I to each pick an angel.
How it works is thusly:
- Families in need fill out a little form with information that varies from region to region, sometimes with clothing sizes but always with a present that the kid wants. The age range is from months old to seniors in high school.
- That information is transferred to ‘angel’ cards which are sent to local businesses to hang on Christmas trees.
- People who go to the businesses pick kids they want to buy for. You can buy just the stuff they requested or get more- we usually do more.
- Bring back the UNWRAPPED gifts to where you picked your angel. Sometimes their are volunteers, but sometimes there’s just a box to put the gifts in. Make sure all the toys are attached to the angel card.
- Volunteers sort the gifts and the families come pick them up.
I like Angel Tree because it gives a kid, who otherwise wouldn’t get anything, a Christmas. There are at least a few other programs like it, but it’s the one my family uses.
This year Kevin and I picked two kids because Big Island kids don’t ask for much. Most of them only wanted things like towels, cooking implemented, and clothes.
I also like to pick the teenagers because most people prefer to choose little kids, and the idea that age might disqualify someone from having a happy holiday make me particularly sad. On the mainland that usually means I’m buying a bike.