LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — This holiday season marks the 40th anniversary of the Angel Tree program.
All around the world, people donate gifts for needy children based on cards hanging on Christmas trees with the child’s age, gender, clothing sizes, and favorite toys.
That tradition started 40 years ago right in our area, with the Lynchburg Salvation Army.
Louise Dudley helped prepare the ornaments that first year in the River Ridge Mall. Forty years later, she’s now the general manager of the mall and has seen the program grow every year.
“Back in our day, we would purchase Hallmark greeting cards that had three angels on it,” said Dudley, “and we would cut up the angels like paper dolls and we literally would type the information for the children on the back of the cards.”
Over time, the typewriters were replaced with printers, but the spirit remained.
“It really truly taught us what the meaning of Christmas is about, that it’s about, that it’s better to give than it is to receive.”
She’s had a front row seat to see it grow over the decades.
“All our retailers have always supported the program, and the community has embraced it and it has continued to grow.”
From a few hundred angels that first year to now global participation, countless children have been served.
“To know that we have kind of been the catalyst for change in that avenue, it’s just, it’s amazing,” said Captain Sheri Jones of the Salvation Army of Greater Lynchburg.
It means the world for the parents, who may otherwise not have a gift to wrap.
“I’ve had many mothers tell me that they’re deeply saddened that they weren’t able to provide Christmas for their children,” said Jones, “but they love being able to wrap their children’s gifts. It’s something that’s very meaningful for them, in a way that they can still actively participate in making Christmas happen for their children.”
Beginning last year, the Salvation Army started including gift card requests on the trees for teenagers.
This year, the Salvation Army is serving 900 children in the Lynchburg area. They’re asking gift to be donated by December 7, but check with your local branch for their deadlines.