Tree helps those in need
Over 30 families and 69 children were served by this year’s Angel Tree sponsored by the St. Mary’s Hospital Mission Integration Committee. This year is the 12th year the program Angel Tree has provided food and gift baskets to needy children and families.
“There are so many people and groups that are involved with our Angel Tree it is hard to recognize them all, but Zara Hasselstrom, director of the Cottonwood Food Bank, was instrumental in arranging for the food boxes that went out to families with children and also some elderly couples in need,” said Stacie Jackson, SMHC Mission Committee member. “Jerry Richardson, shop teacher at Prairie High School, always brings a load of wonderful toys and special gifts made by his students. “
According to Jackson, Hasselstrom must follow state guidelines when preparing the food boxes to ensure that every child and adult gets items for a balanced diet. She also purchases items such as toothbrushes and other household supplies to supplement the food boxes. The food bank is stocked from a variety of sources including food drives by local Boy Scouts, by school students within the district and through financial donations.
The PHS shop students made toys for all ages including wooden bulldozers, four wheelers and pull toys for the children and lazy susans, napkin holders, salt and pepper shakers for their parents. “We are amazed at the talent of these kids and their generosity in making the toys each year,” said Jackson.
People began phoning their suggestions for low income families before the Thanksgiving holiday. Jackson then sends a letter to the family to ask if they would like to be part of the program. Names are kept confidential. “Sometimes when I contact people they say they were on the receiving end in years past but their circumstances have changed and they’d like to participate in the Angel Tree program as givers,” said Jackson. “It’s really heartwarming when that happens.”
Once the names have been gathered, paper ornaments are placed on the Angel Tree set up by the SMH chapel. Hospital and clinic staff members then choose an ornament and purchase the gift suggestions listed on the back.
PHS high school students and SMH staff package the food and gift boxes and deliver them to the families in need. “Sometimes it’s hard to be on the receiving end of a gift, but sometimes people are down on their luck only temporarily and it’s heartening to know that family, friends and community are there to help during hard times,” said Jeanette Gorman, SMHC Community Relations Coordinator.
“I’d really like to thank everyone involved in the Angel Tree Project,” said Jackson. “It is truly amazing to see how generous people are to others they don’t even know. It’s really the best part of Christmas.”
Angel Tree helpers include St. Mary’s staff, volunteers and students from Prairie High School including Wyatt Williams, Kelly Williams, Cheri Holthaus, Amanda Rehder, Stacie Jackson, Collette Schaeffer, Lonnie Schaeffer, Isaiah Nida, Todd Nida. Sitting: Dustin Schaeffer. Photos provided by SMHC.