PORTSMOUTH -The Salvation Army is gearing up to prepare gifts for local families as part of their mission to provide social services and care to locals in need of a little extra love this holiday season with their Annual Angel Tree program.
The program is simple. People will find trees in places like local banks, Walmart, Rural King and the Salvation Army, where there are little angels on the branches. Each angel represents a need or want of a local child. The program doesn’t deliver that gift directly to a specific child, but uses the ideas to populate a sort of Christmas store in the Salvation Army.
Closer to Christmas, parents who have registered for the program will visit the store and select a toy for their child that they think they would enjoy.
Walmart also partners with the organization extensively. Not only does Walmart collect toys, but they have an online shopping option that delivers to the Salvation Army. Rural King is also collecting onsite.
In addition to that, the Salvation Army attempts to help in other ways, including clothing and a Kroger gift card for a Christmas main dish meat.
“The cards are generic and will list boy or girl and no name,” Salvation Army’s Mistie Simco explained. “There will be a number on that, but no name, because everything just goes into what we call the toy shop.”
The toys are laid out on tables and broken down by age. The ages are 0 to 18 months, 19 months to three, four to six, seven to 10, 11 to 13, and 14 to 17.
The toy shop will be open on December 21 for parents registered.
“To me, this saves parents their dignity, because nothing is wrapped and they get to pick out their own toy and don’t have to say it is from the Salvation Army,” Simco explained. “If a child asks if they got it for them, they can say yes without lying. It has gone really well in the past 4 years we’ve done it.”
Additionally, if someone wants to do something more specific, they can adopt a family.
“For that, they would get to wrap all the presents,” Simco explained. “They get access to the first names and how many there are in the family. They also get needs and wants that the family has and they get to give specifically to that family.”
Simco said the program is popular and they gave over 2,000 gifts last year.
“The community is amazing. Angel Tree and the people within the community just make it happen. We feel very blessed,” Simco said. “I think we have over 600 people, including families, registered this year. I’m going to guess we have around 300 to 400 children.”
Adults get the Kroger gift card for a turkey or ham, as well as a bag of food. For families six people and more, they get two bags. Finally, they offer clothing.
“Not only will they walk away with toys, but they’ll leave with food and we try to give each child one outfit,” Simco said. “I don’t think we are the only ones doing something like this, but our numbers have not gone down since we’ve started, they’ve only gone up, so I think there is a need here for this program,” Simco said. “We also try to work with other agencies and programs, to make sure we aren’t duplicating the same services.”
Simco said she thinks the program is very important and serves the mission of the Salvation Army perfectly.
“I think it is what we do. I think it is heart to god and hand to man and this is a way we can serve. Christmas is special, not only for recognizing Jesus and what it means, but gifts are an act of love,” Simco said. “I think when people feel like they cannot provide food, let alone gifts, then I think that is where we may come in.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved