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Salvation Army needs angels for holidays


THE WOMAN who sought help recently to provide Christmas presents for her child through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program had lost her job months earlier.

With some savings and resources left, the mother was adamant about paying her own way for regular bills, turning down the chance to get assistance for things like utility bills.

But when it came to Christmas gifts for her youngster, the woman wasn’t letting her pride get in the way.

“She didn’t want to ask, but was willing to so her child could have a happy holiday,” said Capt. Jamie Satterlee, who oversees the holiday program for The Salvation Army.

The child, whose name will go up soon on a tag to be adopted from an Angel Tree in our area, isn’t alone this season. Satterlee said the need is greater than ever, with 1,944 names on the Angel Trees going out Nov. 9 to area Walmarts, Spotsylvania Towne Centre, several Giant Food stores, The Salvation Army office at 2012 Lafayette Blvd. and perhaps some other spots.

That’s up from 1,864 names last year.

Of this year’s total, 1,787 are children up to the age of 14. The rest are disabled adults or needy seniors.

For those not familiar with the Angel Tree program, it works like this: Families and individuals apply for the holiday help and are screened for need and to avoid duplication with other aid programs.

Along with the application, the youngsters and the others seeking help provide a list of wanted gifts, along with sizes and other details.

If the applicant meets requirements, their wants go on a tag that’s hung from one of the Angel Trees throughout the community.

People shop for the tag/person they adopt, then bring the items they purchase back to the Angel Tree site for pickup.

Satterlee and her husband, Matt—who run the local Salvational Army organization—explained that the volunteers who make the program possible check the items returned to make sure the recipient gets enough.

Said Jamie Satterlee, “We try to make sure the youngsters get three to five toys, two outfits of clothes or one outfit and a coat, as well as a ball or a doll, a bag of books,” and in the cases of older kids, a stocking.

For Angel Tree bags that come back a little short, and for the 300 or so youngsters who in recent years have gone “unadopted” by the deadline, Angel Tree volunteers use donated funds and fierce bargain shopping to fill the void.

She noted that items purchased for the Angel Tree program are to be returned to tree locations by Dec. 7. Distribution of the gifts is to happen Dec. 15–18, from a location that’s not yet locked in.

The Satterlees noted that those who want to help the Angel Tree program but not do a lot of shopping can simply donate money and/or a new toy or two.

“Anything is appreciated and helps,” said Jamie Satterlee.

Matt Satterlee noted that while local donors have been generous in recent years despite the difficult economy, monetary donations to the Christmas program have fallen this year by 12 percent.

“I think the down economy has finally hurt some folks’ ability to give,” he said, noting that many families face hard choices when confronted with tighter budgets.

The Salvation Army Christmas kettles, another source of funds for holiday programs, are due to go out Nov. 16 in some spots locally, with others to follow on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

He noted that there are special moments that happen now and again as recipients of Salvation Army help turn the tables to help others.

“We had someone like that who’d suffered a fire growing up and was helped back then by the Salvation Army,” he said. “He came in one day with a $20,000 check, saying he wanted it to be used to help those impacted by a fire.”

Ditto for a longtime volunteer who got a pair of shoes growing up, and has worked to help others through The Salvation Army’s Shoe Fund and other programs.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

How to help: Take a tag from an Angel Tree—to be at area Walmarts, some Giant Food stores, Spotsylvania Towne Centre or The Salvation Army office at 2012 Lafayette Blvd. by Nov. 9—then purchase items on the list and return them to the Angel Tree site. Another option is to donate money or a new toy or two directly to the Salvation Army at its Lafayette Boulevard office.

For questions or details on helping: Email Jamie Satterlee at or call 373-3431.

Online: www.virginiasalvation