By Meagan Pruitt
Willis Hall has been providing toys to Salvation Army's Angel Tree program for several years, but some students have been giving to this program for as long as they can remember.
"I'll be participating because I think it's great to give to the children in the program who may have been forgotten," said Annie Elwell ('15), who used to participate in the program with her family when she was younger. "I think I'll get some sort of princess toy for a little girl. Maybe something from Frozen since that seems to be the big thing with little kids."
Madison Bloomfield ('15) likewise has been a part of the Angel Tree program since a child, and provides a family with a present every year.
This year there are 2,502 children on the angel trees, an increase of 400 since last year. While the cause of the sudden spike in numbers is unknown, the Salvation Army intends on providing every child with a minimum of two presents and even some stocking stuffers for Christmas.
While people often provide something fun for the angels, clothing is necessary for the children, especially winter-ware. This includes items such as hats, coats and gloves.
"This program allows our students to make an immediate impact in our community," said Alex Hash, community outreach coordinator, who hopes to have three full boxes of presents to give the Roanoke Corps by winter break.
With Christmas just around the corner, the Salvation Army has started collecting presents through the angel tree, including the Forgotten Angels.
Every year, there are up to 500 angels that go without toys. When a family snatches an angel tag off of one of the Salvation Army trees found at Tanglewood Mall, Valley View Mall or the Stocked Market, they sometimes forget to buy a present for that child. Other times, angels are never adopted from the tree. In either scenario, this child becomes forgotten, and is therefore labeled as a forgotten angel. This year, 300 children have qualified as such.
Last year, each advisory bought a substantial number of presents for individual angels. With the provisions accumulated by each advisory, 12 angels were visited by Santa Claus. This year, Suzzanne Gandy, Salvation Army's Roanoke Corps.' volunteer coordinator, spoke to the high school about providing presents for those who are forgotten at the holidays.
"These children are your neighbors," said Corps. Officer, Captain Terrie Near-McKinley of the Salvation Army. "They are members of our community who need our help, and as High Schoolers it's important to remember that you are nearly adults, who will be responsible for your own lives very soon. Nothing keeps life in perspective as well as seeing that there are needs beyond your own and doing something about it."
The Salvation Army has reached out to all seven public and private high schools in the Roanoke Valley, including North Cross.
"I think that many of our students here are very fortunate to come from families that are able to provide them with everything they need, oftentimes everything they want," Upper School Director Mark Thompson said. "Being able to recognize that maybe not everyone is as fortunate and be able to give back to them is an important lesson. And you never know what sort of difference you can make in a child's life by providing them perhaps a small gift."
Not only does the Salvation Army provide an opportunity for others to donate a gift to someone in need at Christmas through the angel tree, but also the bell ringers stationed at the entrances to grocery stores and malls. This icon is often associated with the image of the organization. Volunteers stand by door exits, ringing the bells and wait for shoppers to offer any extra change they have on them.
"Sometimes I donate money," Bloomfield said. "I should [do it] more often than I do."