Our church has an amazing outreach program through their Next Steps Center. We volunteer there regularly and we enjoy always having different projects to work on there. This time Rachel and I volunteered with the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program. The Angel Tree program has Christmas trees up in various places around town. The Christmas trees are covered with "decorations" that are cards with the age and gender of a child and their Christmas wish list. You can choose a child to sponsor by pulling their card off of the tree. Then you shop for them and bring the gifts to a designated drop off place.
At the Next Steps Center, the Salvation Army and volunteers had already gathered the gifts together and sorted them all by family. They were ready for the families to pick them up. Rachel and I would be working to get the gifts out to each of the families as they showed up to the Next Steps Center. The majority of gifts were in bags that were sorted by family.
This section was for oversized items that couldn't be grouped with the rest of a family's items in the large bags. There were lots of doll houses, play pens, ride on toys, car seats, and so much more.
The families started lining up outside to pick up their gifts. I couldn't help but smile as I noticed the 5 mission statements above the heads of everyone in line.
1. Engage with those in need in our community.
2. Advocate for the underserved in the community.
3. Build strategic partnerships.
4. Develop community kingdom leaders.
5. Equip and release people to meet the needs they see.
I love volunteering here!
So back to the Angel Tree. There are hundreds of bags to get out to all of these people in line. It seemed a little overwhelming at first until I understood the system. It was quite an impressive system!
Each family has a ticket to turn in at the desk. The volunteer looks up the family and writes down the last three digits of their assigned number on a ticket and hands it to a volunteer in the back (that's us!)
The bags are all lined up in rows and organized into numerical sections. So if you had ticket 801-825 then you would go down the row to the right in this picture.
Here we had the ticket and gift for 575. The green ticket told us we had one oversized item to pick up as well.
We would then bring the items to the front to be given to the families. There were so many smiles on their faces when they received their gifts. What a wonderful way to get in the Christmas spirit by blessing others!
Outside of the Next Steps Center were these stacks of "Boxes of Blessings".
Each box contained non-perishable food items to make about three meals. Each family that came to pick up their Angel Tree gifts was given a box to take home.
I have enjoyed doing many volunteer projects like this with my kids. It is a special time that we spend together "doing the most good". They learn to reach outside of themselves to help others and think of how they can bless the community around them. These are lessons that our society today is desperately in need of. If you are interested in getting your children involved in volunteering, start by asking at your church to see if they have some opportunities there in which they can serve.