Salvation Army distributes gifts to angels

Dec. 20, 2012 @ 11:25 PM

The Salvation Army distributed clothing to around 750 sponsored children Tuesday as part of its Angel Tree Program, bringing Christmas to those who may not have had one otherwise.

The distribution, which served underprivileged children from Sevier and Cocke counties, was held at the Pigeon River Crossing mall on Teaster Lane.

"In our community, we have our poverty level just as any other community does, so this is just to reach out to give mom and dad hope that they can provide something for their children and that their children can have a Christmas," said Lt. Marie Inmon, Salvation Army representative.

Most of the gifts given through the program are clothes — shoes in particular — because other agencies in the area do coat drives and toy drives, Angel Tree coordinator Aimee Darwent said.

"And when we speak to parents, they agree that the clothing is the needier thing for them," Darwent said. "It's more expensive, and they agree that they'd rather have that than the toys."

The child's height, shoe size and other relevant information were put on the cardboard cutout angels that went on the trees in 22 area locations. When a person chose to sponsor one of the angels, he or she used that information to purchase the child's gifts.

Inmon said the agency gives guidelines on what to get the children. They look for two outfits, a coat and a pair of shoes for each child. They also suggest underwear and socks.

"We give general guidelines," Darwent said.

But sponsors weren't restricted to just clothing. It was their choice to give more — or, in some cases, less — than what the agency asked for each child. The result were bags that included clothing as well as toys, but also some that lacked the minimum.

In that case, the agency has a line of donors that supplement items where needed. Additional items came from the Fill the Truck for Local Kids event that The Salvation Army held at Walmart last week.

"If there's something missing, we will try to supplement it," Inmon said. "The donors help us buy miscellaneous items and socks and underwear to help us fill that basket."

All items were brought to a warehouse distribution facility, Inmon said, where the still-unwrapped items were packaged into black trash bags, which helped preserve the mystery of Christmas if the angels themselves came with their parents to the mall.

"Sometimes the kids are with them," Inmon said. "What we want to do is still let the moms and dads provide Christmas for their children. Whether it's Santa Claus or mom and dad, we want it to be a surprise."

Parents of potential angels signed up for the program in the last week of October, where they gave out the information for their children, and they could sign up more than one eligible child. The largest family had seven children, Darwent said.

"As long as they met the financial requirements, like if they were eligible for food stamps, then they automatically apply," Darwent said.

All families were scheduled to pick up the gift bags Tuesday — three families at a time in one-minute increments.

rhargett@themountainpress.com