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COLUMN: Community support fills Angel Tree stockings

HOLIDAY HELPING: See more opportunities to help out for the holidays.

THE NEED this year was unprecedented, putting the region’s caring nature to the test.

But when the local Angel Tree program of the Salvation Army asked for last-minute help, folks across the Fredericksburg region responded.

“Because of the community’s caring and support, every child in our Angel Tree program will be taken care of this year,” said head Angel Tree “elf” Cheryl Howard.

This year, the program that counts on the public to sponsor and shop for toys, clothing and food for needy children and seniors faced the unprecedented challenge of providing for 2,600 folks.

Two weeks ago, when word got out that the program had 1,900 children without sponsors, the public responded, going to local stores or the Salvation Army office to take a child’s tag and shop for him or her.

Then last week, when an update indicated there were still some 500 youngsters not shopped for, a steady stream of caring folks purchased toys and dropped them off at the Angel Tree’s Toyland distribution center in the former Giant Food store at the intersection of Plank and Bragg roads.

“Even though we didn’t get every child sponsored ahead of time, that wave of donations gave us enough to put toys and clothing in every child’s bag,” Howard said. “It was a really heartwarming show of community support. We still have toys coming in.”

On top of that, Howard noted that the program had received donations of more than 600 bicycles when all was said and done.

“That’s the most we’ve ever had,” she noted. “It makes Christmas really special for the children who get one.”

The distribution of the bags of Angel Tree gifts and food started Wednesday and will wrap up Saturday afternoon.

The volunteer “elves” who make the program happen will get two or three days off. Then, the day after Christmas, they’ll hit sales of clothes and toys to begin stocking up for next year.

“We really are thankful for all the support we got this year,” said Howard. “The response from the community was overwhelming.”

Deserve Each Other

Those who follow this space regularly know I’m one of the folks many people hereabout love to hate: a Cowboys fan.

Because the Redskins are my team’s main rivals, I would be lying if I said the travails of RGIII and company weren’t fun for me at first.

But not anymore.

Yes, the Skins are shooting themselves in the foot, every time we turn around.

But now, seeing the weekly Redskins’ meltdowns just reminds me of my Cowboys—who are even better at self-destruction.

Up by 14, 23 or even 28 points at the half?

Who cares! Our porous defense or our QB, Tony Oh-No!, can undo that in record time.

And though the struggle between Washington owner Daniel Snyder and coach Mike Shanahan is painful to watch, at least it’s a struggle.

My team has an owner, Jerry Jones, who will employ only coaches who let him really call the shots.

Which means we’ll never get a real coach.

So, yes, when these two squads square off Sunday, there will be some good players on both sides of the ball.

But because of two owners who continue to define the word “meddle,” neither squad is going anywhere—with no change in the foreseeable future.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415