Volunteers braved the snowy weather on Monday to get out and help set up for the annual Angel Tree campaign, which is expected to provide gifts to about 3,300 children this year.
“Angel tree has been running for 30 years due to incredible support from our community and we always say it’s like a shared community experience because the stories that we hear really impact everyone — the donors and the people receiving,” says Michelle Gallucci, director of advancement and communications for Lethbridge Family Services.
The program helps children and families with low income or who are struggling to make ends meet to have a good Christmas experience. Volunteers cater gift bundles for each child in the program based on wishlists, but Gallucci says this year has been different from previous ones.
“The lists that we are getting already, the children are asking for food items. We have never seen that before,” she says. “That is a pretty heartbreaking thing to see on a child’s list — is ‘can you please give me something to eat.’ So we do the toys, we do the clothes, we do something warm, something cuddly and this year we just have to add something for food.”
Lethbridge Family Services partners with other organizations each year, including food banks to help families during the holidays.
“When we get a request for food from a child, we make sure that they are registered with the food banks because we work in coordination with them. In addition to that, we will give them maybe a food gift card or granola bars like I mentioned. We don’t want to stray from what we do best and that is our gift bundles for children, but when there is an extra need, we pivot and we make sure that we are supplying each child, each family with what they really need and what they really want,” Gallucci says.
There are 123 drop off locations around the city for people wanting to donate toys to the campaign. A full list of locations can be found on the Lethbridge Family Services’ website. People can also sign up there to volunteer for the program.
“These children are encouraged by the gift bundles they receive and we really believe that this gives them hope, it keeps the magic of Christmas alive,” says Gallucci.