Angel Tree: Salvation Army kicks off Christmas help for kids

By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Christmas is drawing incrementally closer, and on Friday Tupelo’s Salvation Army installed its annual Angel Tree in the food court of The Mall at Barnes Crossing.
The Angel Tree allows mall shoppers to fulfill the Christmas wishes of families in need. Families fill out an application giving information on their children up to 12 years old, including clothing sizes and which toys they are hoping for.
Aside from their names, the information is transferred to a ticket, which is hung on the tree. A mall shopper may peruse the tickets on the tree and register to shop for a particular child.
Susan Gilbert has put together Salvation Army’s Angel Tree for the past 13 years.
“After 13 years there has never been a child that wasn’t taken care of,” she said.
This year saw an initial lack of applications for children to go on the tree, but thanks to a last-minute “make up day,” Gilbert said they have more than 1,000 “angels” this year, representing more than 400 families. She said that even after the deadline, Salvation Army will accept applications from families who suffer unforeseen circumstances, such as a house fire or job loss.
Once the tree is open for registration, Gilbert said a steady stream of shoppers adopt families.
“But this year we had people calling to adopt families while we were still setting up. We even had a company come in and adopt a few of them,” she said.
She said families can expect to spend around $75 on the Christmas list. Common requests are for books, sports equipment and educational games. Some ask for bicycles, but Gilbert said families shouldn’t be discouraged by the more high-end requests because sometimes businesses offer to cover the cost of bicycles.
Black Friday
“People think $75 doesn’t go a long way, but if they hit the sales right on Black Friday, they can get a lot more than they think,” she said.
The Salvation Army also will host a dinner on Thanksgiving Day. For those unable to attend, meals may be delivered when requested through Salvation Army’s office. According to Gilbert, more than 3,000 meals were delivered to those in need.
“We need all the volunteers we can get to help with the meal,” Gilbert said. “We are also always looking for bell-ringers to help through Christmas Eve.”
riley.manning@journalinc.com