Army Community Service at U.S. Army Garrison -- Okinawa helped put gifts under the tree for 107 children of service members this year through the Angel Tree program, which was started in 1979 by the Salvation Army.
An Angel Tree was placed in the Army and Airforce Exchange Service shopette at Torii Station in November, where the tree was adorned with angel cards detailing the age and gift wishes of the child. Community members selected "angels" and purchased items for that child and returned the gifts to ACS.
"This program is important to Soldiers because this time of year is a time of celebrating Families and the things we are thankful for," said Dereck Spivey, Community Life Program Manager. "If a Family feels financially burdened then they may not enjoy this important time of year," he said.
Spivey said that it's not just the children who receive gifts that benefit from the annual program. Those that donated the time and money to make a child's Christmas morning special are also impacted.
"The Families indirectly affected are hard to name because the Soldiers and Families who sponsored an angel were hopefully affected positively by the experience," he said.
For many Soldiers and leaders, being able to give back during the holiday season is the best gift of all.
"The Angel Tree program is a way that Soldiers, DA Civilians and Family
members can take care of their own during the Holidays," said 1st Sgt. Jay High, 53rd Signal Battalion. "This program is so important for so many reasons. It reminds the Soldier and their Family that they are part of the Army Family… It allows Soldiers and their Families to give back and to teach their own children that it's about giving."
Created in 1965 by the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Harold K. Johnson, ACS
offers a multitude of free programs and services designed to enhance the lives of military Families.
"Being a part of this program really does a couple of things for me," said Janine Dorsey, who oversees several ACS programs at Torii Station. "It reminds me that there are good people who care and want to assist others when times are rough and want nothing in return. And the thought of the happiness on a child's face is enough to make my day brighter," she said.
Army Emergency Relief is a non-profit organization established to provide emergency financial assistance and offers Spouses scholarships to them in obtaining higher education, according to Dorsey who encourages Soldiers and Families to take advantage of the myriad of programs offered by ACS.
"Our financial readiness program offer financial education, counseling, and support services to resolve financial issues with an emphasis on financial literacy and self-sufficiency. The Relocation Lending Closet can save you money by providing the items you need to cook when you first arrive and before you leave," she said. "… ACS is here always here for you."