Conway Salvation Army held its Angel Tree Kick-off on November 14 at the First Security Bank on Old Morrilton Highway in Conway.
Captain Patrishia Knott said this was her family’s first year in Conway, moving from Stillwater, Oklahoma in June.
“We’re looking forward to meeting a lot of people that have made the Angel Tree Program a blessing to so many families,” said Knott, who works alongside her husband, Captain Michael Knott, serving Faulkner, Cleburne, Perry and Van Buren counties.
The Angel Tree is a unique program that started in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1979. It involves the community in a direct way, allowing residents to become personally involved by sharing with those less fortunate. The program provides gifts of new clothing and toys to thousands of children who otherwise might not receive anything for Christmas.
Children who are recipients of Angel Tree gifts are from families who have applied for Christmas assistance through the social services program of The Salvation Army. During the application process, the clothing sizes and special needs of the children are determined and written on the application and is then transferred to paper “angels” along with the child’s first name, age and gender.
According to Knott, there are currently 160 families with 401 children in need. “I say currently, because we will continue to register families who experience hardship such as death, loss of job, or medical condition that will hinder their being able to provide Christmas gifts for their children,” Knott said.
Angel Tree children are generally ages 0-12 years old, though if there is a teenager in the family, they sometimes can receive something as well.
When families come to pick up their items through Angel Tree, they’re given a big bag containing the toys and clothes, depending on what the child wanted or needed. Families are also given wrapping paper. “This is so they get to wrap it, and become part of it. This way it can be from them,” Knott said.
Knott said the Salvation Army had a college-age volunteer a few years ago who was an Angel Tree recipient, but did not know until years later. “She didn’t know then. It was just from her parents,” said Knott, “It made Christmas for them when they otherwise wouldn’t have had one.”
In many cases, children become Angel Tree recipients after a parent loses a job. Knott explained that it’s people who have worked, and have been able to pay their bills and suddenly can’t. “Life just happens, and they don’t know what to do,” she said. “And that’s why we’re here. We’re here to be a safety net for when life happens.”
In many cases, recipients become volunteers themselves, but there are always those who just want to give back to their communities.
One year, Knott says there was a baseball team comprised of 30 boys who volunteered with Angel Tree. “They sang Christmas carols the whole time,” Knott laughed.
Knott says while Angel Tree is meeting a need, it also gives people and businesses the opportunity to do something for others. For every car, new or pre-owned, sold now through the end of the year, Superior Chevrolet in Conway is going to donate a brand new bicycle to the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program. General Manager Dennis Hasler says he expects about 200 bikes to be donated by the end of the year.
Though usually thought of for children, there are also special angels in the shapes of little mice named “Mr. & Mrs. Elderberry” for seniors ages 62 and up, who are homebound or in nursing homes with no family or financial support. “These angels are still coming in, so [we] don’t have a total yet,” Knott said. In most cases, the senior recipients ask for clothing, or blankets, but sometimes they get special requests.
Knott said that one year, an older gentleman requested airplane magazines for Christmas. “So needless to say, he got a stack of airplane magazines,” Knott said. “He was tickled pink!”
Gifts for the senior recipients are ideally passed out at their residential Christmas parties, so that all in attendance have something under the tree. Knott recalls she once had to special-order a gift, and it came in too late for the party, so on Christmas Eve, she hand-delivered the gift. “I don’t usually get to see people open their gifts, so it was really cool for me to get to see her face when she unwrapped her present,” Knott smiled.
Recipients don’t have to do anything to get their gifts, but when families come in, they are given instructions on the process to go through, and often times are read the Christmas Story. “Because whether they are a believer or not, that’s what the holiday is based on,” Knott said.
Angel Tree Adoption Sites for the Public
Colton’s: 120 E Oak St, Conway
Grace Presbyterian: 1010 Hogan Lane, Suite 2, Conway
Kroger: 855 Salem Rd, Conway
Kroger: 101 W Oak St, Conway
Tokusen: 1500 S Amity Rd, Conway, (they do a toy drive for the angels
Walmart: 1155 Hwy 65 N, Conway (Harkrider)
Walmart Eye Center: 3900 Dave Ward Dr, Conway
Walmart Neighborhood Market: 2550 Prince St, Conway
CVS Pharmacy: 825 W Oak St, Conway
Red Kettle Bell Ringers
The kick-off also marked the start of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, iconic bell-ringers who stand in front of stores, asking for donations. The bell-ringers began their missions November 16 at many locations around the county.
For volunteer opportunities call Captain Patrishia Knott at (501) 329-1712. To volunteer as a Red Kettle bell ringer contact Captain Michael Knott by email at email@example.com.