Spirit of giving

12/22/2012

Salvation Army Angel Tree program does its part to make sure every child has a present under the tree.

Salvation Army Angel Tree program does its part to make sure every child has a present under the tree.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Hundreds of toys, ranging from board games to dolls and action figures, were gathered at the Salvation Army this week, donated as part of the Angel Tree program that helps lower income parents ensure their children have a present waiting for them under the Christmas tree.

"We always have families in need. We want to make sure no kid wakes up on Christmas without a gift — something that says we think about you, we care about you," Robert DeLeon, Salvation Army community center director, said.

For several weeks before Christmas, the Salvation Army had Angel Trees set up at Walmart, St. Catherine Hospital, both Dollar General stores, and Garden City High School. Each was decorated with soldier cards. Each card bore suggested toys for children ages 0 to 17.

After shopping for gifts, donors dropped off the toys at the Salvation Army. Envoy Louise Lurtz said though the Salvation Army recommended a $20 limit per gift, donors were free to spend whatever they wanted.

"Even at Dollar General, you can get toys for $5. It's whatever the buyer can afford," she said. "It looks like my 6 to 8 and my 12 to 17 are my big hitters."

Lurtz said the suggested age ranges were split into 0 to 2, 3 to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 11 and 12 to 17.

Toys were gathered at the Salvation Army, 216 N. Ninth St., and sorted according to age group. Angel Tree parents were contacted about picking up toys on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. When they checked in, the parents were escorted by a volunteer to the toy shop, where they could choose two toys for each child.

"We give wrapping paper to Mom and Dad so they can have some dignity and ownership of this is what I'm giving to my child," Lurtz said. "It's something that's difficult for them. They live paycheck to paycheck, and they don't have money for Christmas."

Craig Lurtz, Salvation Army envoy, said that most years, the Angel Tree program serves more than 900 children and often has people on a waiting list.

"We try to give them two toys each, and if we have clothing items, we give them those also," he said.

Deleon said there is a deadline in November for signing up for the program.

"Well, we don't want anyone to go without. We put them on a waiting list, and if we have enough toys at the end, we call them in if we have some extra toys," he said. "Sometimes it's really down to the wire."

Because the Angel Tree program operates according to low income guidelines, Louise Lurtz said families interested in participating have to fill out an application form that asks for proof of income and include documents to verify their children's ages.

This year, 164 families applied for the program, which included 620 children.

Craig Lurtz said though the distribution was last week, people still can donate up to Christmas because there are always last-minute families who need assistance.

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