Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Shelby Hill is a volunteer at the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree in Colonial Mall in Decatur. Children’s names are on the trees and people can select names and provide toys for the children.
left behind is Christmas mission
Organization to provide toys, food
By Sheryl Marsh
The Salvation Army’s Christmas mission is to ensure that no “angel” is left behind and every family has something to eat.
The organization has angel trees at businesses in Morgan, Limestone and Lawrence counties. The “angels” — names of children who need toys — adorn each tree.
“None of our children is left out,” said David Singletary, commander of the Decatur operation. “If we accept them as an angel, that angel is taken care of. If all the angels are not taken care of from the trees, we have toys given to us to make up bags for them.”
Angel trees are at Wal-Mart, Colonial Mall and Cracker Barrel in Decatur. In Athens, they’re at Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel and a radio station. A tree is at Wal-Mart in Moulton, Singletary said.
People select one or more names from the trees and provide toys for the children, he explained.
“The angels really move fast at malls,” Singletary said. “People are used to them being there, and they go back and get the names off the trees.”
Morgan and Lawrence total 720 angels and Athens has 584.
Angels are chosen from families who apply for assistance. The families receive food and their children get toys.
“Families receive food year around, so that’s ongoing,” Singletary said. We take applications the first week of October and the first week of November. Angels come out of those families. Individuals who don’t have children come and receive food boxes for Christmas, and we give clothes to families and individuals year-round.”
In keeping with tradition, Salvation Army bell ringers with red kettles are out and proceeds help fund the agency’s giving.
The agency will help 360 families in Athens and 380 in Morgan and Limestone.
The Volunteer Center of Morgan County, which helps people throughout the year, spreads Christmas joy also.
Great emphasis is placed on teenagers.
“Teenagers oftentimes are the group that gets left out,” said Mary K. Braddock, executive director. “We are doing gifts for them, age 14 to 18. They must be in school.”
Also, the center is doing the hope chest project. People fill shoeboxes with various gift items for all ages up to 18. Chests for older children might include watches or radios, Braddock said.
“We’ve averaged about 2,000 the last two years,” said Braddock.
To keep people from getting gifts from all agencies, the entities cross-reference applications.
“We’re a clearinghouse for several organizations,” Singletary said. “If they go to various agencies and make application, we’ll decide who to refer the family to.”
The Committee on Church Cooperation, another organization that helps provide Christmas gifts for children, uses the clearinghouse to verify that recipients have not been sponsored by another agency.
“We have open sign-up in October for people to sign up their children for gifts,” said Kelley Hayes, assistant director. “Once we get them cleared, which is 99 percent of them, we get sponsors for them.”
The Committee on Church Cooperation has a toy room that donors stock each year and if the agency is unable to get a sponsor for a child or children, their parents may select toys from the room.
“We’d love to receive donations for the toy room because it seems we have gotten more calls for them this year,” Hayes said.
There’s usually a heart-warming story from Christmas giving. Singletary told this story from a past Christmas.
“A husband was putting tar on the roof and got burned severely from the tar,” Singletary recalled. “His wife had to spend a lot of time with him at the burn center. Their children became angels. We had someone who was looking for a particular case like this and they provided all their needs.”
“Interestingly, this wife was so appreciative she became a volunteer,” Singletary added. “She became one of our best volunteers. She began to give back to the community because someone cared for their children in a tragic time. It’s always a blessing to give.”
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