The people who decorate these Christmas trees hope the ornaments come off quickly.
Every year around December, businesses across the county place angel trees in their restaurants, stores and offices. The trees help children cared for through the Johnston County Department of Social Services – those in the foster system or in the Adolescent Parenting Program. This year, the program hopes to help about 150 children.
Each paper angel ornament has the name of a child and his or her wish list for Christmas presents, plus clothing sizes. People can take a name off the tree, buy the presents and donate the gifts anonymously.
“If we didn’t have angel trees, we wouldn’t be able to provide for the children in foster care and the Adolescent Parenting Program,” said Tony Harris, supervisor of foster-care licensing.
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The angel trees will be in stores and offices through December, Harris said. Then the department will go to the restaurants and businesses to pick up the gifts. Families then pick up the gifts from the department.
Supporting the angel tree program is a good way to help families in the community, Harris said.
He said a family’s response is often emotional. For instance, for teens in the Adolescent Parenting Program, “it’s a lot of tears because, honestly, if someone put on their wish list that they want a crib for their baby, and then they actually get that crib,” he said. “(It) is not cheap… . It’s very heart warming.”
Last year, someone through the angel tree program bought gifts for Danny Lee’s two grandsons, and he described the presents as a blessing.
“The children got clothes that they very much needed,” he said, adding that each child also got a game. “We supply their needs with what we have to supply them with.”
“It’s been such a blessing,” Lee said. “It’s been truly from God to lay it on these peoples’ hearts to do what they’ve done for us, and we are so thankful for that.”
Someone also bought Lee some clothes last year, even though he didn’t ask for anything.
“I told them I didn’t need anything because I have my family,” he said. “If I’ve got my family and Jesus, then you know I‘m happy.”
Harris said the department has been doing the angel tree program for about 20 years. He said finding people to shop for older teens is hardest, so the department also accepts donations, which the staff uses to buy presents.
The Cracker Barrel on Industrial Park Drive in Smithfield is one of the 22 participating businesses. Sometimes customers will pick a name, but often the staff at the restaurant sponsors many of the children, said Ron Jacobs, assistant general manager.
Jacobs said hosting an angel tree is about getting involved in the community.
“There are kids out there that are in need of help, and, you know, it’s the time of year to think about the reasons why we do what we do,” he said. “There’s lots of people out there that need help, along with the kids, and that’s why we do it.”