Angel Tree to bear presents for needy children

December 21, 1992|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

County children in foster homes, shelters and other "homes away from home" are celebrating this holiday season with the help of county employees and the Angel Tree program.

The 6-year-old countywide program provides Christmas gifts for needy children. Thirty Christmas trees decorated with angels -- each bearing a child's name -- are placed in county offices. Employees pick an angel from the tree, then buy a gift for the child.

The county Police Department, for example, has six trees, one in each district station, the Millersville headquarters and the Criminal Investigation Division in Crownsville, said department coordinator Nancy Silwick.

Beside the child's name, each angel card has the child's age and a gift idea.

Duffel bags or clothing are good gifts, Ms. Silwick said, "because these kids are pretty transient."

Although most of the names of young children are taken immediately from the trees, the names of teen-agers seem to be hardest to give away, said Michele Kirby, who works in the county finance office and is the county program coordinator.

"People think that Christmas is just for the little kids," she said. "The sad part is that some of these teen-agers are helping to support these families."

Ms. Kirby suggested gift certificates, sweat pants or sweat shirts and inexpensive jewelry as gifts for a teen-ager.

Anne Arundel employees will be providing gifts for about 1,250 children this year. Last year, about 1,200 children received presents through the program, with names provided by the Department of Social Services and the Holiday Sharing Program, a network of churches and other organizations that seek out donors for the needy.

After people buy their gifts, they place them under the tree for distribution either by Holiday Sharing or other community service organizations.

"There has been an average of two or three gifts per child this year," Ms. Kirby said, adding that the program has grown since she started it six years ago. "Last year and this year have been the most successful years."

The Safeway store in Pasadena, the First Virginia Bank in Crofton, the First National Bank at Airport Square and the Severna Park Elks have all joined the program.

Ms. Kirby said she came up with the idea when she saw an angel tree at a bank six years ago.

"I thought it would be a good idea to do it here," she said.

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