I have participated in our church’s Angel Tree Project for the past five years. I’ve gone from buying presents for my particular angel to wrapping presents to working at the table where the parents hand us their numbers so we can bring out their gifts.
Over the years, the situation has become ever more streamlined. The parents were in and out in five minutes or less yesterday. A waiting area is set up with coffee and cookies if a whole bunch come at the same time. Everything is run like a machine. One family comes into our room at a time. The parent hands us the number they receive at the first table, we double check at our table (my job), we call out the number and “runners” walk behind the screen to where the packages are all bagged and numbered in order. They bring the presents out from behind the screen, the parents pick them up and go out the back door. 1 – 2 -3.
It is all over in three hours. Any clients who are unable to come to the church on Saturday can pick up their presents at the agency with whom the church partners for this project. It is one church and one agency. It is manageable and much more personable.
Some of the parents have to bring their children because there is no one to care for them. The younger children don’t really understand what is going on. The older children get a sneak preview of what “Santa” will be bringing a week from now. There’s no way that bicycles can be hidden. The smiles are from ear to ear.
More than one parent broke down crying when they received the presents. These are people who have no way of buying anything for their children. Someone in the family, father or mother, and sometimes father and mother, are chronically and in many cases, seriously, ill. They are in survival mode. There’s no money for extras. One young woman hugged each one of us to show her gratitude. She was so relieved her child would have something under the tree.
Our team leader makes certain that every child has something. Every year all the angels have been taken from the tree. This year there were ten left hanging. I started last year to donate money instead of taking one angel to insure that everyone gets what they wished for. Several others have taken to doing the same thing. The leader and the co-chair see to it that they personally shop for all those who were not chosen. If all angels are chosen, she shops for those who don’t get much to give them a little more. She is determined this project will be a success for all the children.
It was not a surprise that there were angels left on the tree. Our church has been experiencing a loss of members. Couple that with the economic situation, not every member of the congregation can afford to participate as in years past.
Our leader tells us there are families in our congregation that for them, this is their Christmas. Instead of exchanging presents among the family members, they contribute to the children in this program. Now THAT is the Christmas Spirit.
The children who accompany their parents never complain about the size of the bundle for them. There’s no whining, no temper tantrums, no, “Is that ALL”? My Christmas is very small now that I do not live anywhere near relatives and my son is half a world away. In many ways, the three hours at church on a Saturday morning being a part of such a team IS my Christmas. I leave at the end feeling a warmth that I consider my true present. Namaste. Attic Annie