…truer words were never spoken. To serve as a volunteer or staff member of the Angel Tree program is an experience you will not forget.
We all have “stuff” going on in our lives, those never completed “to do” items that we glance at scrawled across a dry erase board on our fridge, the kids who don’t appear to have the desire to be obedient whatsoever, relationship issues with our spouse, significant other or friend. The job that we feel holds us back from reaching our full potential or the car that never fails to break down at the most inopportune time. These are all valid issues and need to be tended to and worked out, possibly require intervention of some sort and guidance, but as one volunteers or works at the Angel Tree program, you begin to see our “issues” being mild in comparison to the obstacles that face many of our neighbors on a daily basis.
As part of the Angel Tree process, during the month of October families come to a chilly warehouse, generally in an industrial section of the city. They wait for their number to be called while sitting on a not so comfortable chair, surrounded by many other people anxiously awaiting their turn as well. They face partitions that separate them from the clients inside registering with a volunteer or staff member. They occasionally glance up at the neon poster board that lists the items needed in order to register. Their eyes carefully scan what’s listed, then quickly shuffle through their purse to make sure they have the children’s birth certificates, social security cards and proof of income. Their ears will perk up as they hear a number called, but settle back in their seat when they realize there are several numbers ahead of them. Some may wish for a book to read, others are thinking about what they have left to do today, majority sit there and can’t believe they are in this position when only yesterday they were employed, their children fed and they were able to make their rent or mortgage without help. They can hear the sounds of their children’s voices echoing in their ear, calling out anxiously about a toy they saw on TV and how they are going to ask Santa to bring it, all the while deep down inside, the parent is unsure where the next meal is going to come from let alone Christmas toys. The parent stares ahead unsure of what the next few months will bring as she alone cares for her children; unemployed and scared.
98, her number has been called. The parent heads to the officer calling out numbers and is pointed in the direction of an empty table; volunteer sitting on the opposite side, smiling and grabbing a fresh application. The parent sits down and nervously digs through their purse, pulling out every piece of required information necessary; praying they remembered everything. The volunteer asks for ID and a social security card for the parent and proof of address because they only cover certain zip codes. The parent didn’t catch that requirement on the sign. She feverishly rummages through her purse, but can’t seem to find anything with her name on it and her address besides her drivers license. The volunteer informs her they have to verify this address because so many people move and don’t always change their license. The parent sits there; fighting back a few tears who desperately want to spring forward out of frustration at how her life these past few months have turned out. The volunteer suggests she go check her car, she may have a bill in there or car registration, something recent that would show her address. The parent scrambles out of the warehouse and to her car where she flips open her glove box and pulls every piece of paper out of it that she can. She sifts through the mess and snatches a one month old letter from the unemployment office. She quickly locks up her car and heads back into the warehouse and back over to the table where the volunteer is patiently waiting. The parent hands her the envelope and the volunteer continues to complete the registration process. Her monthly income falls within the guidelines, this is when the parent relaxes realizing her children made it on the program. The volunteer enters the children’s information, then asks for clothing sizes and one need which can be clothing, shoes, sheets, etc. The parent stammers a bit trying to think quickly what is their greatest need…she decides shoes; her youngest one is such a boy and goes through his gym shoes like they were made of paper. The volunteer then asks for his wish…the parent answers “anything Transformers” without missing a beat. “He loves BumbleBee”, she quickly adds. Now for her daughter. The parent lists off the sizes and for need, states, “school uniforms, khakis and polo’s.” Time for the wish; the parent thinks long and hard then remembers her daughter pointing at something on the TV. “She wants an easy bake oven or something like that.” The volunteer finishes writing then swings the application around so it is now facing the parent. The volunteer reads through the application to make sure everything is correct, then points out the parent’s pick up date and time. They explain, they will need to come back to the warehouse with this yellow form that she is about to give her, as well as her photo ID. She will then sit in a waiting area and her gifts will be brought out to her. The parent thanks the volunteer for not only signing her up for this program but for being so patient and kind. The parent goes on to say that I used to adopt these “angels” in the mall, never imagining that my children’s names would appear on this very tree a year later. Thank you.
This is just an example of the many folks who enter our doors every year seeking Christmas assistance. There are so many stories to tell; situations to share because of the various age groups we cover including our senior citizens who generally live alone and depend on this program for some basic items they are in need of such as a warm blanket, robe/slippers, sheets and towels. Occasionally they may ask for a microwave or pots and pans, but they possess no greed, just need for many of the every day items that we take for granted.
I encourage you, if there is time in your schedule to drop by our warehouse during registeration and assist us with the various families and individuals who are seeking some help during the holidays. It’s true that no one has ever suffered or died without Christmas, but it does provide some hope, encouragement and most importantly love to those who feel all alone in their struggles and day to day living. Even if they can feel the magic of Christmas and sense Christ’s love for them in the gift bag that was purchased by a total stranger for their family…it can and will change their life and perspective.