Column: Angel tree help needed

Last-minute Christmas shopping can be a stressful experience, particularly to those committed to seeing that no child awakens Christmas morning to find nothing from Santa.

It is only Dec. 3 , but time is running short if this stress is to be avoided in 1999. And you can be of assistance.

The Christmas Angel Trees are now in full decor and immediate help is needed to "un-decorate" them!

Angel Trees are used as a means of collecting donations of clothing, toys and food for distribution to less fortunate families and children at Christmas. For those unfamiliar with the process, Angel Trees are "decorated" with cards (angels) containing anonymous information regarding those needing assistance. In central Lyon County, cards note the age and gender of a child up to 14 years of age.

Residents are asked to take one or more names from the tree, buy an appropriate gift and place it back under the tree, wrapped with the "angel" attached.

Making a success of such a program can be challenging, particularly when the families involved are spread from Mound House to Silver Springs. However, central Lyon County has its own very special Santa's helpers to get the job done!

The effort is coordinated by Central Lyon County Parks and Recreation Director Jannette Hoffert. As tireless and perpetually energetic as she is, however, the ever busy Jannette will be the first to tell you the project would not be a success without her many helpers, including the Lyon County Youth Coalition and Dayton High School Honor Society, who assist with buying and wrapping gifts when necessary; and, the volunteers of the Central Lyon County Fire District, who make sure all gifts are delivered by Christmas Eve.

Now in its seventh year, the idea originated over lunch with Jannette and three friends - Youth Coalition Director Michelle Watkins, former Dayton Juvenile Probation Officer Leah Moore and local business owner Kathy Green.

It has never been difficult finding enough names to fill the Angel Trees. The problem can be in having too many. Consequently, an effort is made to find families who would not be helped by other holiday assistance programs and are genuinely needy. Names are provided by school counselors and other organizations working with families and children.

This year's angels currently number 306.

"One year we had 380 children. That was a bit overwhelming, but we hate to leave anyone out," Jannette said. "We try to find out which families are really in need and limit it to children who would simply not have a Christmas without our assistance."

There can be last-minute glitches. Last year it was discovered that close to 50 names had not been removed from area Angel Trees. Jannette and her helpers made sure all were taken care of, however, by collecting money from supportive businesses and residents and doing some last-minute shopping for Santa.

Volunteers have also been amazed at how many brothers and sisters they find during Santa's deliveries that they did not know about. Learning from past experiences and wanting to leave no one disappointed, they now make sure extra gifts are available for the unexpected.

Such stressful last minute emergencies and shortages of gifts need not occur.

With a population of well over 10,000 in the central Lyon County corridor, there should be more than enough people able to give a little assistance to assure the happiness of at least one child a little less fortunate. It simply takes the desire to do so.

Hoping to avoid any last-minute surprises, Jannette has set Dec. 14 as the date to have all names taken from the Angel Trees and gifts in place under them. (And don't forget the older children. Teenagers need a Christmas, too.)

It would be a very Merry Christmas, indeed, and a well deserved reward for Jannette and her dedicated helpers, if each community came together and saw that this goal was met.

Angel Trees are at the following locations: Mound House: Handjive and the Pizza and Video store; Dayton: Dayton Depot, the Prophecy and Roadrunner Caf; Stagecoach: Stagecoach Pizza To Go, Davey Jones Locker and Western Reservations; Silver Springs: Pipers, Silver Springs Saloon and Village Market.

Donations of money are welcome and will be used to purchase those needed extra gifts. If you plan to adopt more than one angel, perhaps you'd like to support a particular family of siblings. Call 246-6227 for information.

Central Lyon County is blessed to have volunteers willing to give so willingly of their precious holiday time. Their example should behoove each of us to share in this most rewarding and meaningful part of Christmas ... that of giving.

Why the Angel Tree program?

Jannette says it all: "Because it is necessary. There is nothing worse than a child going without Christmas. They need to know someone out there cares."

Think about it.


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