CUMBERLAND — Finding gifts to complete any holiday wish list can be a challenge. Filling hundreds of wish lists takes all year.
“As soon as we finish this Christmas,” Salvation Army Maj. Dianna Blevins said, “we will start working on next Christmas.”
Next to the “Red Kettles,” the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program is the organization’s largest holiday fundraiser. Launched in 1979 in Lynchburg, Virginia, the program has provided needy children from around the country with Christmas gifts for nearly four decades.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” Karen Wells, social services director at Salvation Army, said. “It’s so much fun to go through and see all of the things that the kids are getting, and imagine what it’s going to be like when they open the gifts on Christmas.”
This year, 603 children from Mineral, Hampshire and Allegany counties will have a brighter Christmas thanks to Angel Tree.
“We want to make sure we can give them the best Christmas they’ve ever had,” Blevins said.
Angel Tree candidates must pass an approval process. After the number of eligible children is confirmed, officials will reach out to a variety of local organizations asking them to “adopt an angel.”
“It really is a community driven operation,” Wells said. “People are very generous.”
Churches, nonprofits and private businesses are among some of the Angel Tree donors that receive a small angel-shaped tag featuring the child’s wish list items.
According to Wells, all angels were adopted this year, regardless of the organization losing a major local corporate donor.
“Last year 75 angels were not adopted,” Wells said. “Even without (the company), were able to get all (angels) adopted this year.
“So that tells you that the community is becoming more generous,” she said.
“We can’t tell donors how to spend their money,” Wells said. “Anything that we get we are grateful.”
Each child will receive two toys, two necessity items, such as clothing, and a red bag containing stocking stuffers. Some of the most popular toy asks this year include Pokemon, Shopkins and Num Noms.
While most families pick up toys at local distribution sites, officials will deliver to families without transportation.
“The people in Mineral and Hampshire County, we go to them,” Lawrence said, “because a lot of them can’t come to us.
“A lot of those people don’t have transportation, so we go to them.”