Angel Tree Program Keeps Christmas Merry for Families in Need

Dec 23, 2019

When Tierra Bell recently went Christmas shopping for her three kids – 6-year-old Ariyanna, 5-year-old Deandre, and 4-year-old DeShawn – she went to the place her mother suggested. It was the same place her mom had shopped for Tierra’s Christmas presents when she was a young girl: a Salvation Army Angel Tree gift distribution.

Through the Angel Tree program, families who might not otherwise be able to afford Christmas presents for their kids are provided with gifts from their kids’ wish lists – as well as all the ingredients for a full Christmas meal. All the gifts are donated by Salvation Army friends, staff, volunteers, and corporate partners.

“I wish I could thank them so much,” Tierra said of those who provided the gifts she received for her kids, including an Elsa doll from the movie Frozen. “I don’t know what I would have done without these gifts. This help came right on time. It’s a real stress reliever.”

Tierra received her gifts from the Oakbrook Terrace Corps Community Center, where Captain Stephanie Senn says the 300 families they’re providing gifts for this year started filling out Angel Tree applications in October. Soon after, local businesses agreed to take and fulfill Angel Tree tags with specific gift requests on them, and others, like the local Elks Club, provided items like bicycles and electronics.

For Maribella Garcia, another recipient at the Oakbrook Terrace location, these gifts help ensure a merry Christmas. “We’re having financial problems this year,” said the mom of 10-year-old Andres and 6-year-old Julia. “This help means a lot!”

The Salvation Army Corps Community Center in Aurora provided gifts for 730 families this year as well as 50 seniors from a local center. Each child at the Aurora location is receiving toys, clothing, a stuffed animal, and school supplies, while the parents receive a roll of wrapping paper and a box full of ingredients for a Christmas meal.

Marcela Savedra, one of the Aurora recipients and mom of four children ages 17, 10, 6, and 3 weeks, said she’s looking forward to “Their faces of joy when they open the gifts. I’m excited because my daughter will have a bike she can ride on.”

For Captain Linnea Forney, corps officer at The Salvation Army Aurora Corps Community Center, her excitement is in watching all the wishes get fulfilled thanks to the generosity of so many. “There are so many that wanted a specific toy from a certain movie that’s out. They want a different character. They put it in the Angel Tree tag. It just blesses my heart to see they really wanted that specific thing,” she said. “Someone wanted a Spanish Bible. And somebody specifically went out and bought that kid a Spanish Bible. It’s just a blessing every day. I get to open these gifts and I get to go through and make sure everyone gets what they need, and the wishes are correct, and put in their bag. It just makes my season. I love it.”

Most Angel Tree recipients are also given a box full of ingredients for a full holiday meal, offered prayer, and provided information about all the programs offered at that Army corps community center. The Oakbrook location also offers a special Christmas program with a photo booth, where many families enjoy having their annual holiday photo taken. All of these services are in effort to provide for the whole family.

“We hope that we provide them the dignity to shop for and have gifts on Christmas morning,” said Oakbrook’s Captain Senn. “As a mom, I can’t imagine not having gifts for my kids. I love picturing all these smiling children on Christmas morning.”

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