Angels not only abide in heaven, they also hang gently on the spindly branches of Christmas trees scattered throughout Oxford, waiting patiently for the spirit of the season to bring about its miracles.
The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program makes Christmas miracles happen by providing clothing and toys for needy children and families through the caring support of people, both locally and on a national level, who sponsor the child or family a particular angel represents.
Lisa Coleman is the director for The Salvation Army in Lafayette, Pontotoc, Marshall and Yalobusha counties. Coleman said The Angel Tree Program depends on the community for its success.
“The main Angel Tree is always at the Salvation Army locations and always a success, thanks to our communities,” she said. “We only put other angels out if the churches or organizations ask for them and then they’ll give us the amount that they want. They might tell me they need 50 or 75 angels for their tree, just whatever quantity they want, we’ll provide. By quantifying them, I have documentation of how many we have out there, so if they’re not all pulled from a certain tree, we can purchase gifts for those children or families. That way no one is without gifts on Christmas morning.”
Each angel has a specific code number which represents that child or family.
“I document who has what code and what entity has that particular angel,” she said. “That way I can call whoever has what group of angels when I know the adoption deadline is approaching.”
Coleman said that usually it’s the members of the church or organization that selects an angel from those trees and then sponsors that child or family.
“Anyone outside of the church or particular organization that would like to sponsor an angel can come here to The Salvation Army location and select one,” Coleman said.
Coleman said three local churches are participating in the program this year and over 600 angels are up for adoption in Lafayette County alone.
“And whether or not they’re all adopted,” she said, “all the angels will get gifts. No one will be without. The Salvation Army will provide for the ones that are left on the trees.”
Coleman said that the program does have an application process and people do have to meet certain criteria before they can participate.
“Our application process begins in October,” she said. “We take applications usually for three consecutive days during that time. People need to show their income and expenses, but that revenue doesn’t necessarily have to be a certain level. For example, someone with a larger income may have just lost their job or someone may have an unexpected expense, such as car repair or replacement, and they need help. All those types of circumstances are considered too. I just need documentation of those struggles for the person to qualify.”
Coleman said The Salvation Army wants to be sure everyone has a good Christmas and through the generosity of donations made by sponsors, it can.
“Each child gets three or four gifts, if not more,” she said, “they get them through the program and through monetary donations made in lieu of selecting an angel. And we do have people who come in and make donations of toys and other needed items for the Angel Tree Program.”
Coleman said angels are still available for adoption at The Salvation Army in Oxford and the deadline for returning gifts is December 16th.
Oxford University United Methodist Church is one local church that is participating in this year’s Angel Tree Program. Pat Forrester is Missions Outreach Staff Coordinator at the church and said that they had been a part of the program for at least 20 years.
“We always put the tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving,” Forrester said. “The Sunday after Thanksgiving it goes in our sanctuary. The angel has the children’s names, ages, sizes and things that they like to do or play with written on it. And then church members return the gifts here, labeled with the name on it and unwrapped and we make sure all the gifts get back to The Salvation Army.”
Angela Rogalski is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.