The coronavirus pandemic has led to many holiday traditions and events being canceled or postponed, but the Salvation Army of Rockingham County's annual Angel Tree program is one tradition that is still moving full speed ahead.
The registration and giving process may look a little different this year, but organizers are working to make sure this year's Angel Tree is a huge success.
"We expect the numbers of families in need to increase this year due to COVID-19-related closures and unemployment," said Colleen Sovich, public relations and volunteer coordinator for the Salvation Army of Rockingham County. "We will need to rely on our upcoming Red Kettle Challenge efforts, generous individual donors and corporate sponsors to cover expenses for Christmas and all our ongoing programs."
Through the Angel Tree program, the Salvation Army will be able to assist 1,000 to 1,200 children ages 12 or younger and about 100 residents ages 60 and older. This is an approximately 20% increase from previous years. Assistance is available to residents of Rockingham and Caswell counties who are in need of help with providing Christmas gifts for their children, grandchildren or elderly members of their family.
"The Angel Tree program allows members of the community to become involved by giving holiday joy and gifts to children in need who would otherwise be left out on Christmas," Sovich said. "People can donate and share with those less fortunate who live in their own city, town and county."
The Angel Tree program began in a Virginia shopping mall in 1979. Volunteers placed cards on a Christmas tree, allowing shoppers to select a child to help by purchasing needed items, such as clothing and toys.
"This year, due to COVID-19, our Angel Tree registration process is a bit different, and we are taking every precaution to ensure everyone's safety when entering our service centers and family thrift stores," Sovich said.
In previous years, registration sites would be open for set dates and times during which parents or guardians could complete forms to indicate family members' holiday needs. This year the Salvation Army is asking families to call ahead to make an appointment to complete forms.
Appointments are spaced 20 minutes apart so that no more than two families are in the building at a time, and family members are required to wear masks when filling out forms and during interviews. Tables are sanitized between each interview.
Registration for children to receive gifts/items is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Oct. 20 at the Salvation Army Service Center in Eden and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 21-Oct. 23 for seniors at the same location. (Appointments required, call 336-349-4923.) The Salvation Army asks that children not attend the registration because of safety concerns and speed of service.
"The Angel Tree program is a resource to provide children from lower income families with presents that will bring joy at Christmas," Sovich said.
The majority of children served are in need of clothes, shoes and winter jackets. Other items listed may include books, games or educational materials. Seniors often indicate needs such as comforters, slippers and houseware items. Christmas meal boxes are also available, and eligibility is based on crisis or family needs.
"We would like to assist as many individuals and families in need as we are able during the holiday season," Sovich said. "Our staff and trained volunteers carefully interview and register families and referrals to identify needs for such assistance."
Businesses, corporations, civic groups, church members, families or individuals who would like to adopt angels and receive a list of wish items should contact Majors Syung and Hae Lee at 336-349-4923. Gift distribution dates are Dec. 17, 18 and 21 at 708 Barnes St. in Reidsville.
"The Angel Tree program depends on donations, so it is an opportunity for people throughout the community to help families and children in need during the holidays," Sovich said.
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