Not all angels wear halos.
Some wear T-shirts, yoga pants and blue jeans along with masks and face shields. All are helping to make merry Christmas memories for children in Abbeville County through the Christmas Angel Tree program.
It is an outreach ministry for Main Street United Methodist Church in Abbeville, said Lori Glace, coordinator for Angel Tree, who has worked with the program for 32 years. Its goal is to provide a brighter Christmas for needy children.
Angel Tree is made possible by the community working together. Glace said businesses, civic, church and school groups, and people throughout the community participate to provide gifts and time.
The church gets referrals of families who wish to apply. Angels are put out for people to sponsor and give donations, Glace said. Volunteers shop for gifts, and package and wrap gifts.
The goal is to get gifts to families by the week of Dec. 15, she said. People can still pick Angels at Edward Jones in Court Square or they can contact the church.
Angel Tree started with 78 children and minimal resources. Glace said it now serves more than 600 children.
That many children means a lot of work. There are likely several hundred volunteers, Glace said, adding that work for the program goes into thousands of man hours. Recently, the Angel Tree room at the church has been open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for volunteers to prepare gifts.
The room is filled from one end to the other with tables loaded down with toys of all kinds, clothes, books, dolls, shoes and various board games. Volunteers mill around in seeming chaos, but everyone knows exactly where they are going and what they are doing.
Children get clothes, several toys, school supplies and surprise gifts, Glace said.
Many volunteers come as a result of word of mouth, she said. After 32 years, Angel Tree has generations of helpers.
People have received help and then come back to help. Glace said that means so much.
Volunteers represent a melting pot from young mothers with children, senior citizens with grandchildren, retirees, people out of work and teenagers.
“I always loved seeing young people — teenagers — who come out to volunteer their time, said Mary Elizabeth Land, who has volunteered with Angel Tree for about six years. “They are working to make someone’s Christmas special.”
“There are so many things I love about this community — the thoughtfulness, kindness and caring for people even if you don’t know them personally,” she said. “Christmas is a time when all of those characteristics shine.”
Angel Tree is a chance to give back, Land said. “It’s important you don’t have children who feel less. We want every child to have that wonder and joy.”
While work in December gets plenty of attention, Glace said Angel Tree appreciates year-round donations of items and cash. Volunteers shop throughout the year; they are constantly looking for sales to stretch the dollars.
The biggest need is continued support from the community, Glace said. Angel Tree always need donations of gifts for middle schoolers and teenagers.
Glace recalled once praying for $200 to meet needs and a few hours later, Angel Tree got that money. All gifts, large and small, make a difference.
To sponsor an Angel or donate, people can call church at 864-336-2367. The address is P.O. Box 656, Abbeville.
A chance to support Angel Tree comes up Dec. 12, with the 11th Abbeville Rotary Club Reindeer Run. The run supports the Angel Tree Bicycle Fund.
People can register at Abbeville First Bank or the Greater Abbeville Chamber of Commerce. Entry fees are $20 for runners and $15 for walkers and participants under 18. The race begins at 8:30 a.m. at Abbeville First Bank. For information, call 864-366-2158 or visit facebook.com/abbevillerotary.
The race usually gets 70 to 80 runners, said Mark Meyers with Abbeville First Bank. A lot of people register on the day of the race. This year, everyone will be asked to wear a mask in the registration area and practice social distancing.
Runners don’t have to worry about whether anyone appreciates their sweat and effort. Glace recalled a story about a little girl in Sunday school who was asked about her favorite gift. She said it was the year she got a bike from Angel Tree.