Newman University sponsored a Salvation Army Angel Tree for the Newman community to help make Christmas special for families in need.
For more than 25 years, Newman faculty, staff and students have participated in the Angel Tree Project. Continuing the tradition, this year Newman community members volunteered for the Salvation Army's 2015 Distribution Days, which began Thursday, Dec. 17 and will run through Saturday, Dec. 19.
Newman University Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Rosemary Niedens said families apply for assistance with the Salvation Army early in December. The Christmas wish lists of children under 16 are placed on Angel Trees around town, the donated gifts are collected into family groups and the families are given a specific time and date to arrive at the distribution center for pickup.
"They check in and are matched with a family guide," Niedens said.
The guides lead the families through a line of stocking stuffers of small toys, handmade wooden toys and books. Families can also collect wrapping paper.
While families are selecting stocking stuffers, runners are hurrying to the back of the warehouse to grab the bag of gifts.
"It was amazing to see how big of an operation Angel Tree is and how many people are helped to provide gifts for their children," said Janice Esses, head softball coach at Newman University. "I look forward to volunteering again next year."
On Dec. 17, 79 families went through the process every 10 minutes, guided by a volunteer from parking to packing up.
"The spirit of Christmas is very apparent at this event," Niedens said. "You can see it in the faces of the volunteers who are working very hard to help share Christmas. You can also see it in the faces of parents and grandparents who are grateful for help in providing Christmas to kids."