Angel Tree benefits post children
Therese Erthal, Catholic parish coordinator, hangs tags on the Angel Tree located at the Main Post Chapel across the street from the commissary.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 29, 2012) -- With Black Friday done and gone, and many shopper's holiday purchases tucked away, the last thing many people want to do is brave the seasonal crowds again to purchase more gifts.

But officials at the Main Post Chapel encourage people to buy a few more gifts for less fortunate children for this year's Fort Rucker Angel Tree Program.

The program gives people a chance to provide a holiday gift for Fort Rucker children in need, according to Therese Erthal, Catholic parish coordinator.

"Our Angel Tree is located in the lobby of Main Post Chapel. The tree is up and running, ready for anyone who wants to participate. All [people] have to do is come in and take a tag off of the tree," she said.

Those who take a tag are responsible for providing a gift to the child on the tag. The program is anonymous. The only information the giver receives is the gender and age of the child.

"This year I have 475 children to collect gifts for -- that is about 25 more than last year. Every year there are more and more children on the tree. So, we ask that people take as many tags as their heart desires," said Erthal.

The ages range from 3 months to 18 years and gifts are asked to be returned to the chapel no later than Dec. 14.

The chapel adopted the program several years ago from Army Community Service and has turned it into what it is today.

"Every year I get a list from ACS of the Soldiers, and some civilian workers, on post that are in need of assistance this year and received Thanksgiving food vouchers. I then make gift tags for each child and hang them on our Angel Tree and ask people in the community to take a tag, purchase an age appropriate gift and return it to the tree," said the coordinator.

Gifts turned in need to be new, unwrapped and unopened gifts.

"People can choose to leave the tags on or off. It is up to the person donating if they want the receiver to have the option to take the gift back if it is something like clothing," said Erthal.

Gift cards are an acceptable gift and make for a good choice for the older teens, but Erthal asks that participants not give food.

"Please do not bring candy, cookies or treats like that. We cannot give that out and it will be a few weeks before the children get their gifts," she said.

"We also accept donations of tape and gift wrap, and large sturdy gift bags are absolutely wonderful," she added.

For people concerned with buying the perfect gift, Erthal said that a gift list is not provided.

"We do not have any idea what the children might like. It is completely anonymous and confidential," she said.

Erthal hopes that 2012 ends a sad holiday trend.

"Last year we had well over 100 children's tags left on the tree. We ask that the community come forth to support Soldiers and their Families. Having that many children's tags left on the tree is such a sad thing," she said.

The chance for the Army Family to take care of its own is invaluable, Erthal said.

"We are one big Family and we are here to take care of one another," she said. "I don't think there is anyone, at one point or another, that hasn't had to go through a tough Christmas. A person's dollar can only stretch so far.

Sometimes you need a little help and that's OK."

Gifts dropped off after Dec. 14 will be saved for children next year.

Gifts can be dropped off at any time, and if anyone wants to give a gift but does not have the time to claim a tag they can drop off their gift at the tree and Erthal will select a child that remains on the tree for that gift.

"People can buy as much as they want. Whatever their heart leads them to buy," she said. "Soldiers give an awful lot. I don't think the people in the United States appreciate not only what Soldiers give up but what their Families give up. They don't realize how often they are alone for Christmas or birthdays. This is just a great way to give back to good people who give a lot for our benefit."

If anyone takes a tag and realizes they cannot purchase a gift, Erthal said that they can either call the church at 255-9894 and give the tag information so a replacement tag can be made, or they can drop by the chapel and hang their tag back on the tree.

"It may seem embarrassing, but I don't need their names. None of us know what unexpected expenses might pop up, so it's totally understandable when that happens," she said.

Page last updated Thu November 29th, 2012 at 00:00