Golden Triangle Angel Tree families receive miracles

Staff Writer

The Salvation Army and kind-hearted community members recently participated in the annual Angel Tree initiative to provide Christmas for children ages 12 and under whose parents have ran into hardships.

“We provide an opportunity for people in the community to adopt those children at Christmas time,” Starkville Salvation Army Service Center Manager Katie Walker said.

The Angel Tree was set up in Chick-Fil-A this year on Nov. 19 and by the middle of the week, 53 families were adopted.

Walker applauded the quick response of the community as being “fantastic.”

“It doesn’t necessarily shock me, our community is very generous and willing to help,” she said.

The 4-County Foundation gave the Salvation Army a grant then used the funds to provide food for the families.

Turkeys, canned goods, fruit, bags of potatoes, and snacks were packed in a box for the families.

“So they not only receive toys and clothing for the children but they’re able to have some food either for Christmas day or just through the holiday season as well,” Walker said.

There have been years that the community wants to adopt more families than the Angel Tree has.

“If a family’s house burns down after we’ve had appointments, we may add them to the list but we typically do between 53-60 families within mainly Oktibbeha county,” she said.

Churches, local businesses, and families all contribute to support the Angel Tree.

“This is probably one of my most favorite things about my job,” Walker said. “The look that you get on the face of that parent or that guardian when you’re handing them a lot of presents for the children that they take care of and food - it blows you away.”

Each parent or guardian has an appointment for Walker and volunteers to personally spread love and load the gifts into their vehicles.

Katie’s husband Jason Walker, and two friends that helped were loading cars from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18 and Wednesday, Dec. 19.

“For me obviously Christmas is the time of giving and you always want help people if you can,” Jason Walker said.

He then said he’s always wanted to be a part of it because of the impacting stories his wife tells when she comes home from work.

“I’ve always wanted to be a part of it and so I just decided to take off work and come help,” he said. “I see it on the back end and I just wanted to see it on the front end and see these families face-to-face to hear their stories and be a light.”

The Angel Tree is one of Katie Walker’s favorite things about her job and it reflected in the tight hugs she gave to each parent at pick-up.

“Thank you so much” was said multiple times to the Walkers and volunteers.

“At this time in my life, it’s hard for me so I very much appreciate everything that’s given to my babies,” a single-mother of six children said. “It means a lot to me and I very much appreciate everything - I really do.”

Jamilia Ivy, a tire builder at Yokohama, and her co-workers Keira Gates, Brandon Thomas and Calandis Howard came to the conclusion that their children and families are blessed and they wanted to adopt families to bless for the holiday.

“I was telling them like we make good money it wouldn’t hurt us to put in $35-40 a piece and go in to get these kids Christmas gifts,” Ivy said.

After reaching out to the Salvation Army in Starkville, they pushed to donate to whole families instead of the single “angels.”

“We told them we’re looking to do a family maybe if you have some angels that’s within the same family then we want to contribute to that whole family instead of doing an angel and they might be in a house with a child that doesn’t receive a gift,” Ivy said.

Five families were adopted by the Yokohama employees.

They also reached out to the families to schedule a personal delivery.

“We got the majority of what they asked for - bikes, clothes, dolls and I know some of the adults and parents listed wanted sheets, bath towels and household stuff,” Ivy said.

One of the families they chose consisted of older children.

Their parents expressed the relief that Ivy and her co-workers lifted off their shoulders.

“This is our first year doing it and I promise you - we did it for Tupelo, some for Columbus, and I promise you it is the best feeling ever,” Ivy said.

“When you’re doing it from the heart and not looking for nothing in return it’s the best feeling ever,” she added.

Walker mentioned that instances like that are why she goes to work each day.

“Jesus came to give and the selflessness of his coming and you can see that in some tangible ways at Christmas time, it’s just really neat,” she said.

“This time of year I see such a seed of generosity of Starkville-Oktibbeha county with Angel Tree, with our Kettle campaign, but then to see that response from the people that they are helping is just a neat reminder of the meaning of Christmas.”