Angel trees headed to stores near you

By Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
The Salvation Army Angel Trees provide families in need with the toys and other items their children request.

The brightly colored trees outside are not the only sign that a major change in season is on its way. Salvation Army angel trees are coming to a store near you soon.

The trees should be up in local stores in the next week.. 

Salvation Army of Grayson County Major Andrea Ellis said the Salvation Army is looking to help provide Christmas for 700 children this year.

Angel tags on the trees at local Walmart stores will feature the age and gender of the child as well as the size and type of clothing needed. The tag will also include the wish the child had for Christmas for a special item or toy. Ellis said the Salvation Army loves it when people can provide about four gifts for each tag adopted, but they are thrilled with whatever number of items people can help with for each child. The Salvation tries to make sure that each child gets at least four gifts.

"If they give more than four things, we never take anything away from a child," she said. 

The unwrapped gifts need to be returned to the Salvation Army by December 12 so that they can be distributed on Dec. 18. 

Ellis said distribution this year will as contactless as possible. She said recipients will not even get out of their cars. 

The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program is more than 40-years-old at this point and is facing one of its biggest years of need yet.

Ellis said they have had about the same number of people ask for help this year as in years past locally. Nationally, however, the Salvation Army is expecting to serve many new people this year due to the pandemic.

 “In a year when so many traditions have been disrupted, I am hopeful that with the extra support from Walmart and their customers, we’ll be able to ensure that children receive a warm meal and gifts under the tree this Christmas," said Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder, National Commander of The Salvation Army in a statement about the increased need made back in October.

Another statement said that "based on the increase in services already provided in response to the pandemic, the organization could serve up to 155 percent more people in 2020 with Christmas assistance, including putting food on the table, paying bills, providing shelter and helping place gifts under the tree – assuming the resources are available. At the same time, due to the closing of retail stores, consumers carrying less cash and coins, and the decline in foot traffic, The Salvation Army could see up to a 50 percent decrease in funds raised through the red kettles, which would limit their capability to provide services for the most vulnerable. To put this in perspective, last year $126 million was raised through about 30,000 red kettles."

“Our ability to raise vital funds to serve those in need this Christmas and beyond is at risk,” said Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder, National Commander of The Salvation Army in the statement released in September. “We need everyone who has the capacity to come alongside us and ensure that the holiday season is bright for millions. We’re asking you to help rescue Christmas with us by providing support in any way you can. Our hope is to offset these challenges to meet the increasing demand for services across our nation.”