Every year, around Thanksgiving time, an Angel Tree flocked with cards is set up in the base chapel’s foyer. No one is sure how long the Angel Tree program has been a part of the holiday season here, but the participation of volunteers and generosity of the community grows every year.
The Angel Tree program provides clothing and toys for children through the support of community donors. All of the work is done by volunteers. They make gift tags and collect, organize and distribute the gifts to the base’s first sergeants for delivery. On distribution day this year, volunteers sorted more than 800 wrapped packages, filling the chapel’s pews with plastic bags stuffed with gifts and ready for pickup.
Hill Air Force Base Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Baker was impressed with this year’s effort.
“We, as chaplains, don’t run it. We host it, and it’s amazing to be a part of such a great program,” said Baker. “We like the feeling of being generous, it’s by design. We like giving and shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”
Team Hill first sergeants generate the Angel Tree cards by anonymously nominating children to gift for Christmas. For each child, two cards are made: one for clothing and one for a toy.
“There are military families that struggle this time of year,” said Master Sgt. Jacob Allen, 388th Component Maintenance Squadron first sergeant. “Angel Tree helps by providing children with a fulfilling holiday.”
Due to the large number of Angel Tree cards this year, volunteer Geri Carrier hung additional cards on the tree as others were taken because there wasn’t room to hang them all initially.
Carrier has been the lead volunteer for the last eight years and has watched the program grow. She has seen people who have been helped in the past come to donate gifts in later years.
“We have all been there and done that,” said Carrier when speaking about money being tight during the holidays, particularly for young families. “There is always the pride factor to be acknowledged. That is why everything is done anonymously.”
The program also
receives donations not tied to Angel Tree cards. This year, the program received 25 commissary gift cards to help families with Christmas dinner. Also, through the coordinated efforts of the Knights of Columbus Council 16127, the base Thrift Shop and the 419th Supply Chain Management Squadron, families with children one year and younger will receive a large box of diapers.
“The community here is wonderful,” said Carrier. “There is great generosity on this base.”
After the gifts were picked up, the chapel was quiet again and the pews empty. The empty pews meant that the combined kindness of the Team Hill community would make Christmas brighter for more than 300 military children.
The empty tree in the foyer?
“An empty tree means we’re on target,” said Baker.