Angel Tree program fulfills wishes of local children
by Laura Johnson
Dec 21, 2012 | 3780 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Volunteer Dennis Lovvorn checks packages of toys for children at the Salvation Army warehouse to make sure that they are correct. (Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star)
Volunteer Dennis Lovvorn checks packages of toys for children at the Salvation Army warehouse to make sure that they are correct. (Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star)
Salvation Army Capt. Cristy Lind spent much of Tuesday with volunteers buying last minute gifts for children in the organization’s Angel Tree program.

Through the well-known program, the Salvation Army identifies families who need holiday help, lists each child in those families on paper cut out in the form of an angel and asks people in the community to “adopt” them as angels. Once the volunteers deliver the gifts from the children’s wish lists, organizers and volunteers begin the arduous task of dividing toys into large black bags to be taken away by children’s caregivers, but not every “angel” is adopted.

“We’re in the final stages of filling the forgotten angels,” Lind’s husband, Salvation Army Capt. Bert Lind said early this week.

This year the Salvation Army in Anniston handed out more than 800 angels for adoption. Between 100 and 185 of those were not adopted and are known to the Salvation Army as “forgotten Angels,” the Linds said.

All but about 15 to 25 of those forgotten angels Christmas gifts were in the Salvation Army’s stockpile by the start of the week. Cristy Lind and a team of volunteers spent the first of the week scouring area stores for gifts to buy for the few forgotten angels that remained.

“It’s a little bit stressful,” Cristy Lind said by cell phone Tuesday, adding that she still had faith she’d fill all the children’s requests on time. “God hasn’t let me down yet and I don’t think he’s going to today.”

All the gifts collected locally by the Salvation Army were to be divided out and passed off to parents and guardians by the end of the week, the Linds said.

The Salvation Army supplies children age 10 and under with gifts through the program. It works in conjunction with other organizations, including Interfaith Ministries, the Piedmont Benevolence Center and Toys for Tots to provide gifts for other children. At least one of those organizations sponsors older children at Christmas, Bert Lind said.

To qualify for the programs, families, who are screened in the fall, must have incomes that the federal government classifies as meeting the threshold for poverty. Bert Lind said the number of people who qualified for services went up this year.

Angel Tree is just one Christmas program that helps the Salvation Army assist people in need. This year the local Salvation Army participated in “Fill the Truck,” a partnership program with Wal-Mart that developed at the big-box store’s recommendation.

For that program, an area dealership donated a new truck to be parked at each of the five Wal-Marts in Calhoun County and two more in Talladega County.

Volunteer greeters were at the Wal-Marts one Saturday during December to ask customers to purchase one toy or child’s clothing item to help fill the truck outside the store. The one-day event yielded roughly 435 gifts for children.

Many of those toys collected at the Wal-Mart stores, like the toys purchased this week by volunteers and Cristy Lind, will be used to fill in the holes in the Angel Tree program. That means they’ll be used both for the forgotten angels and to purchase items donors didn’t fulfill on the wishlists of children they adopted.

The Salvation Army is also famous for its red-kettle Christmas collections. Through that program, bell ringers collect money in red kettles from passersby.

Bert Lind said the local Salvation Army has collected more money from the red kettle campaign this year than it did in 2011.

The kettle campaign is the organization’s No. 1 annual fundraiser. Money collected through the program will be used to help people throughout the year, Bert Lind said.

Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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