Again for Christmas 2005, Calvert County residents were quite generous to our least fortunate. Our local Tree of Angels program has rotated through many church and civic organizations in Calvert County since we began in 1992 when Sean & Robyn O'Conner saw the need—and patterned a community response after the Salvation Army Angel Tree(tm) program. The Tree of Angels program matches up gift requests from nearly 300 families (800 children) in our county, through the Department of Social Services, with willing donors to buy those gifts. The donors fulfill Christmas wishes with new clothing, coats, gloves, shoes, and reasonable toys, so no child is left without a reason to celebrate Christmas. Our donors are: the employees at: the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, the Rod n' Reel, the Calvert County Detention Center, and SMECO; they are members of the Kiwanis Club, and from the church families of nine local churches (Saint John Vianney, Jesus the Divine Word, and Jesus the Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Churches; All Saints Episcopal Church; Trinity, Huntingtown, Emmanuel, and Mount Harmony United Methodist Churches; and Saint Nicholas Lutheran Church).
Donors purchased those clothes and presents, inventoried the gifts to ensure every child is provided for, and distributed the gifts from the Prince Frederick Armory on December 17th. The Tree of Angels is sponsored only through these organizations and the Department of Social Services. This is the ONLY program that screens all applicants through the Department of Social Services ensuring that: ALL needy Calvert County families are served, ONLY needy families are served, and that there is no duplication through any other county services. Saint Nicholas Lutheran Church coordinates this as an outreach ministry.
This year the Tree of Angels had several noteworthy firsts:
* Youth from several churches helped inventory and distribute gifts
* Boy Scout Troop 903 from Huntingtown helped deliver and inventory gifts
* Sheriff "student officers" assisted DSS with last minute crises loading/unloading of toys
* Toys for Tots(tm) (U. S. Marine Corps from Pax. River) donated toys to DSS
* The Red Knights Motorcycle club made several donations, including $500 cash, and
* Toyota of Waldorf donated a huge/significant gift of toys and sports equipment.
Not all of our Tree of Angels tags were taken though, and many of the popular gifts get more and more expensive each year. Many needy people don't sign up in time. Some folks become needy at the last minute and must rely on the help of Project ECHo Shelter, or Safe Harbor, or a local church. Others face unique circumstances like fire, eviction, incarceration, or job loss which we need to help/support. These families are not forgotten, but provide for through the Tree of Angels. Toys for Tots, the Red Knights, Toyota of Waldorf gifts and nearly $1600 from Tree of Angels funds bought these gifts. Donations for Tree of Angels can be mailed c/o Saint Nicholas Lutheran Church, 1450 Plum Point Road, Huntingtown, 20639.
Several local churches serve their needy church members, neighbors, or food pantry clients, outside of these DSS reviews. These donations may be new or used gifts/clothes, and while they certainly help, they are not part of the Tree of Angels program. (The displays mentioned in the December 7th Recorder at the County Market, Wal Mart stores, or others, are not Tree of Angel programs.) ONLY organizations that return 100% of the requested gifts to the Prince Frederick Armory are asked to participate in the Tree of Angels. Our supportive local banks like our Mercantile Bank cannot control patrons who forget to bring those gifts, so while they remain willing to help, they can't guarantee that all children get a good Christmas.
Thanks for all the support Calvert County. Thanks to the employees at SMECO, the Rod n Reel, and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. Thanks to the Kiwanis club. Thanks to Boy Scout Troop 903 from Huntingtown. Thanks to Sgt. Beverly and the men at the Prince Frederick Armory for use of their building. Thanks to the Department of Social Services, to Gary Anderson, to his capable and willing DSS staff, and to Cheryl Harms, who makes sure we remember everyone. Thanks to the church ministries that work this miracle every year. Thanks for the time and energy of the church youth and volunteers who give so much to our community. As Louis Goldstein said about Calvert County residents, "God bless you all real good!" And He does.
Gus Wolf, Saint Nicholas Lutheran Church, Tree of Angels Coordinator
Owings, MD 20736
410-495-4454 (work) or 410-257-7998 (home)