MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 17, 2012

Angel trees in season at Arrowhead

More than 550 names are on this year’s assortment

By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Correspondent

— When Stacy Ellis asked her daughter Sophie why they were taking an angel from the Salvation Army Angel Tree, the 7-year-old gave a very simple response:

“It’s to help other kids. Because the Bible tells us to.”

Mother and daughter were at Arrowhead Mall on Saturday afternoon for The Salvation Army’s annual Angel Tree ceremony. Three trees were put up, two for children and one “Elderberry” tree for the elderly. Each was draped with cards bearing the names of those less fortunate and gift ideas for them.

Capt. Ben Walters of The Salvation Army said this is an exciting time of year for him, because he’s not in it alone.

“Muskogee is a very caring community,” he said. “People are so generous with their time, and they also donate money and resources.

“It’s really cool to be on the front lines and get to see the gratitude that these people have when they get their gifts.”

The trees have the names of more than 550 “angels” to be helped this holiday season. They are at the east end of the mall by the Sears store. Walters said attendants would be by the trees at least “90 percent of the time.”

“We have the Women’s Auxiliary to thank for that,” he said. “They’ve been wonderful with helping schedule folks to be here.”

Arrowhead’s marketing manager, Cristin Spear, said it was a privilege to work with the Salvation Army.

“We’re very glad to help make Christmas better for kids in our community,” Spear said.

The mall is helping in its own way to fulfill the needs of The Salvation Army this year by asking patrons to bring unwrapped gifts to the customer service station. Each giver will receive an entry for a raffle for a dirt bike valued at $1,500.

The angels on the trees listed the needs and wants of each individual. They ranged from skateboards and train sets to underwear and blankets. One angel simply said “anything.”

Cathy Crosby, who works for Green Country Behavioral Health, said she was out volunteering to help raise money and awareness for the event.

“This is what it’s all about, neighbors helping neighbors,” she said. “Every kid deserves a wonderful Christmas. I’ve been in some of their shoes, and it took community helping me out, and now I’m giving back. If more people did that, we’d have a lot less violence and crime, and a lot more love.”

Dana Coons, Jeanie Craig, and Rowena Anderson, three representatives from Bank of Oklahoma, opened the season with the first “official” donation of the year: a mock oversized check for $2,000, made out to The Salvation Army. Walters joked about taking the poster-sized check  through the bank’s drive-through lane Monday morning.

The Ellis family, which also includes Stacy Ellis’ husband, T.J., and younger daughter Macie, 3, picked two angels from the tree. The items wanted were clothes, a Barbie doll, and something from Vtech.

Sophie’s eyes lit up when she saw the classic doll on the list.

“I can help shop for Barbies,” she said.