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IC Angel Tree Sends Christmas Presents to Needy County Children
CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Immaculate Conception Church in Clarion’s Angel Tree has provided Christmas gifts for needy children for over 30 years and now annually makes Christmas a little better for about 500 children.
A Christmas tree with paper tree ornaments is loaded with requests that include the child’s age, sex, and what the child wants and needs this year. No names are listed on the paper decorations because school districts provide the information on the “angel” notes.
“I have no idea of how many families are involved because I don’t ask names; what I want is for kids to get a nice Christmas,” said Paula Dee, who with Pam Space, organizes each year’s Angel Tree program. “If they are on this list, and they’re on another list and they get another present, I’m fine with that because it’s Christmas, and these are kids.”
Vickie Magrini Kennedy started the program in the late 80’s. When Kennedy moved to Virginia, Dee and Space continued it. Now providing gifts from nearly 500 children, the program serves students in Clarion, C-L, Keystone, Union, and Head Start.
Dee said that the last two years have seen more children added to the lists. Even homeless children are part of the mix.
“I said something to Lisa Hummel, the band director at Union, about homeless kids, and she said she had some, but they were not in as bad shape as Clarion,” said Dee.
Requests are sent to the schools each year for students who might need the gifts that can include toys, clothing, or even boots. The contacts from the schools provide the information that is included on the paper ornaments used on the church tree. Parishioners then take the paper angels, purchase and wrap the presents, and then place them in church. Volunteers then distribute the presents to the school contacts.
“We give the schools a blank list with hundred slots, but most go over that,” said Dee. “I don’t know the names and don’t want the names; I get boy or girl, age, what they need or want and sizes. If they need coats or boots, we give them early. The Knights of Columbus bought two cases of coats for us this year, and Pam and I sorted them out and put them with the kids who needed them, and they have been to them. Catholic Daughters give us money for other needed gifts.”
Dee and Space said the program is rewarding for them, too.
“Well, yeah you wake up on Christmas morning, and I’ve got kids that weren’t going to have anything and (now) they do. Sure, it’s rewarding,” said Dee.
“This year and last year were bad. I think the Knights were aware of it when they brought us the two cases of coats. They’re gone. Like I said to Father Monty, you give a coat to a kid at Christmas in December winter is mostly over, and they only fit for this year. Next year they need a bigger size. I said they’re cold in November and October, so we see that they get them. The boots are the same thing because they’re not allowed to go out for recess unless they have boots, and some of them don’t have boots. We put boots on an earlier schedule like the coats.”
There are always some special requests that need a little more attention, and extra support is needed to make them a reality.
“If I go down to a school, and I have a kid there and want to know about the size or something they will tell me don’t worry about it. A couple of years ago I had a call that I had a hard-working single mother with two little girls, and they both wanted an expensive doll for Christmas, and they need clothes. I went to one of the people in the parish and asked if she would buy one doll, and I would find someone else to buy the other doll and put the clothes request on the tree. She took it all—she bought two dolls and bought all the clothes.”
“I heard a kid needed a bicycle and the same situation with a single parent family, and a guy here bought him a bicycle with helmet and everything you could hang on the bike was on it. I have people like that at the church I can go to because they understand the schools have some students have more wants, and they tell me. If they’re not needy, I don’t worry about them.”
Dee finds people honest in the program. Just last week she had a call from one mother who wanted to take her kids off of the list because someone else provided help for the family.
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