By Rachel Shirey
MORROW — ’Tis the season to be giving, especially for a child in desperate need of an angel.
The Salvation Army’s Christmas Angel Tree program arrived at Southlake Mall Friday for the first time in 10 years. Their goal is to brighten a child’s holiday season by donating gifts to struggling families living in Clayton County.
Angel Tree volunteers decorated a Christmas tree in the mall Wednesday night with hundreds of angels still in need of a sponsor.
“The donor gets an angel with a little card, and on the card is the child’s first name, their gender, their age, and the sizes that they wear in clothing and a couple of needs,” said volunteer Carolyn Noel.
Holiday shoppers are encouraged to pick an angel off the tree and purchase gifts for that child, such as socks, underwear and toys.
They can then turn in the purchased gifts that day unwrapped until Dec. 8. The gifts will then be delivered to the child’s parents in time for Christmas.
“I’m helping John this year and he’s 8, and he really wants Spider-Man,” Noel said. “And so it’s the personal connection — obviously, we don’t give up the last name so it’s confidential — but we still have that connection where they’re connecting with that child and whatever (the donor) purchases for that child will be given to that child.”
The Angel Tree program had more than 1,100 children qualify this year, which is more than in years past. However, churches and school programs that typically participate have had to cut back on their numbers due to the economy.
They still have about 600 unsponsored children on the tree with only three weeks left.
“I am very concerned and I’ve been told not to expect very much because we don’t have a toy store in this mall so I shouldn’t expect very many, but I have great faith that once (people) see it, that they’ll start adopting,” said Captain Christi Taylor.
Taylor refuses to believe that they will have to disappoint children this year and maintains her trust in the communities’ ability to embrace the holiday spirit.
She hopes to continue to pass along the tradition of giving.
“I hear stories over and over again throughout the years where someone adopts an angel from the tree and they say, ‘You know what, when I was a kid, I was an angel on the tree.’ So we want to pass that on,” Taylor said.