With the last sweep of the broom across the cold concrete floor, I stand and stare out across the 48,000+ sq feet of warehouse space. As I lean against the wooden handle, I can almost make out the chatter of voices from families waiting for their number to be called so they could register their children for the Angel Tree program. I can hear the swish of papers and the rhythmic tapping of pens as volunteers and staff complete the applications for each person.
I set the broom handle against the wall and take a seat on the peeling yellow railing that once served as a boundary between the thoroughfare that volunteers used to collect gifts for families and the “Forgotten Angel Shop.” I can still see long white tables lined up with handmade signs signifying ages and clothing sizes for our precious angels. Of the 5000 families we served many angels were not adopted or shopped for so the Forgotten Angel Shop, items donated via Daily’s Convenience Store and Toy Field, etc. served as a resource for us to pick age appropriate items for each child or senior citizen so that no angel was ever left behind!
As the noon day sun tries to stream through the various cracks in the wall of the warehouse, I make my way to it’s center and kneel down to scrape away at the left over duct tape that helped mark the many white paper lines that held 30 bags a piece. Each red and silver plastic bag adorned a label with the family’s name and inside were gifts and stockings compliments of this amazing community. I can still feel the hustle and bustle of days when hundreds of volunteers made their way through each bag, inspecting it to make sure that every angel was accounted for. The whoosh of our grocery carts that families, friends and co-workers would push feverishly back and forth from angel tree bags to the Forgotten Angel Shop and back. I glance up and stare at the bay doors that on any given day were opened and closed as gifts continued to pour in.
I switch off the lights and exit through the side door. As I head in the direction of my car,I’m taken back to the 3rd week of December and can suddenly hear peals of laughter coming from vehicles as children who were waiting inside see the large bags being carried out by a volunteer to their car. The beautiful faces of girls and boys of all ages, covering their eyes with mittened hands, promising not to look. Parents quickly placing the bags in the trunks and floorboards of cars that were battered and worn. I can still feel the many hugs received and see the thousands of tears that fell from grateful moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Some were unable to speak as their lips trembled and they wiped away the dampness from their cheeks, but we knew and embraced them; letting them know they are not alone and that God will see them thru this.
For the next few months, items will be boxed up, the warehouse will remain vacant and locked but it’s only temporary….soon enough the planning will begin, the logistics will kick in, the information will be dispersed and another season of Christmas joy will be shared with families who are seeking hope, light and love! It’s closing time for now as it pertains to the Angel Tree program but the connections, the friendships, the stories, the lives impacted and changed will continue on……….
“Cast off all bonds of prejudice and custom, and let the love of Christ, which is in you, have free course to run out in all conceivable schemes and methods of labour for the souls of men.” Catherine Booth