WOODBRIDGE, Va.—This holiday season, across the country, communities are pulling together to provide Christmas gifts for underprivileged children.
“For many children, the gifts they receive through Angel Tree are the only ones they will open on Christmas.”
It’s a part of the Salvation Army’s annual “Angel Tree program,” which has locations based everywhere from Knoxville to Orlando to Washington, D.C.
The program is fairly simple: A Christmas tree is set up in a public location, and, for a specified amount of time, willing participants can visit the tree, sign up with a volunteer, and take a name-tag ornament off the tree.
On the tag is the first name of a child along with his wish list, which includes items requested by the child’s parents (usually necessities like clothing) as well as a “bonus” wish list item such as a video game or stuffed animal.
At the end of the drive, the Salvation Army invites parents to pick up donated gifts for their children—meaning the children never know that an “angel” aside from their parents (or Santa) was responsible for the gifts.
The program is running in tandem with other Salvation Army holiday efforts, like the iconic red Christmas kettles posted in front of malls and grocery stores across the nation.
Last Friday, on a bustling holiday shopping day, Jerry Woods and Blanca Vega—co-hosts of the Washington, D.C.-based contemporary Christian radio station 91.1—set up a booth at Woodbridge’s Potomac Mills mall and broadcast their radio show live from the location to spotlight the Angel Tree effort.
“We’re just a radio station, and we’re fully aware of that,” Woods says. “But I think the power of the radio station is we can go alongside some of these great causes and say, ‘Here’s how you can make our community a better place to live,’ and we really feel that’s one of the goals of the station.”
On its website, 91.9, which, according to Woods, has a following of roughly half a million people, describes itself as a “family that’s spreading hope around the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.”
“If you’re at the mall with your kids, probably in a rush, you may see the tree and say, ‘Oh that looks cute!’ but you might not know what the tags are for,” Vega adds. “We want to tell people what the tree is for, how you can get involved, and how you can get your kids involved and thinking about other people.”
Taylor Briscoe, a financial adviser with Whitlock Wealth Management, a Washington-based firm, was also volunteering with his firm at Potomac Mills on Friday.
“We live here, we work here, we want to give back here,” Briscoe says. “And if I remember correctly, I think [the Salvation Army] is trying to provide gifts for 4,000 children [here at this location].”
According to the Salvation Army, they are in fact hoping to raise gifts for 14,000 children from 6,200 families across the Washington area this Christmas. The program at Potomac Mills runs through the 13th.
“For many children, the gifts they receive through Angel Tree are the only ones they will open on Christmas,” a statement released by the Salvation Army reads.
“Parents totally get to keep their dignity [with this program],” Woods says. “So [when you donate,] you really are an angel.”
To find out if the Angel Tree program is operating in your community, please visit your local Salvation Army website.