Two Christmas trees sit in the center of the Brazos Mall theater entrance, each dotted with white card stock angels that are more than just holiday decorations.
Each angel hanging from the tree represents a child in Brazoria County whose family needs a little extra help with Christmas gifts this season, Salvation Army Captain Stephanie Vincent said.
Every year, the Salvation Army hosts the Angel Tree Assistance Project nationwide with the goal of providing gifts for families who might be struggling financially, Vincent said.
Donors put new clothes and toys under the tree for 1 million children who usually have to go without Christmas gifts, according to the program’s mission statement. “Anonymous donors adopt these little ‘angels’ in an expanding Christmas tradition that makes the season brighter for both the gift giver and receiver,” the statement says.
In Brazoria County, the nonprofit hopes to help 240 families this year and more than 600 children, Vincent said.
“Each of the kids on the tree are from our community, so when you pick one of those kids and buy gifts, those are going to help someone right here in this community,” Vincent said.
For three weeks each December, families can apply for the Angel program at the Salvation Army in Freeport and Pearland, Vincent said. Once those families are approved, their child or children will be added to the Christmas trees.
“The Salvation Army and the Angel Tree Project really unites our community,” Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services for Brazosport ISD Jay Whitehead said. “It’s a great resource for all of our counselors and teachers. Without it, things would be a lot less organized. Our teachers too want to give and our community members want to give and we always recommend this. It’s really about organizing efforts to get kids gifts this time of year.”
Each stock card angel lists a child’s wants and needs along with their name and age. Residents who choose to donate can add presents to an attached bag and drop them right back off at the mall, where the Salvation Army volunteers will be to collect items until Dec. 14, Vincent said.
And not only is the experience enriching for the child being helped, but it’s a way for families to share in the spirit of giving each season, Vincent said.
“First and foremost the joy you get knowing you had a hand in making sure that a child’s Christmas is what it’s supposed to be is just a really joyful thing,” Vincent said. “When it comes to children, no matter where they come from in life, I think they should get to experience the joy of Christmas when they wake up that morning.”
Estimated costs of donations for one child are between $30 and $70 and presents should be returned unwrapped, according to a flyer for the program.
“It’s nice kids get to write their own wish lists,” Whitehead said. “It’s specific to the kids and we also package up those gifts at campuses and district offices and take them to the Salvation Army, so (that) makes giving easy.”
If anyone is interested in volunteering their time, the organization needs plenty of volunteers to register donors of the program in addition to other duties, Vincent said.
The Salvation Army is also looking for a space to place all the donated items and toys this year, Vincent added. While they usually use a warehouse to store the items, that option was unavailable this year, Vincent said.
“I will say Brazoria County is amazing at the Angel Tree Program,” Vincent said. “Last year was my first year here and seeing the giving spirit — I was amazed.”