The Pryor Times

December 6, 2013

Christmas need: Angel Tree numbers skyrocket

Staff Writer
Susan Wagoner

PRYOR, OK — There are many feathers in the wings of an angel. Some are visible while others cannot be seen. Yet together, they become a wing that can lift an angel to flight.

So it is with volunteers in the Angel Tree project, spearheaded for the second year by the Pryor Area Chamber of Commerce. Some volunteers are easily identified as the faces of the organization, implementation and distribution required for such a task. Others are a friend of a friend who took the time to sew baby doll blankets that were then delivered to someone who knew someone who dropped them off.

Together, they will lift the holiday spirits of nearly 1,100 Angel Tree kids in Mayes County, an increase of more than 350 from last year.

“Last year we had around 750 names,” Chamber President Barbara Hawkins said. When the chamber took the project over last year, the first thing Hawkins did was contact Pryor Schools.

“We were put in touch with the school counselors who then reached out to the counselors at the other schools in the county,” Hawkins said. “They have been invaluable to us. We provided applications to the counselors and they made sure they were distributed.”

Hawkins said she was touched by the overwhelming response of people wanting to help. Last year, Hawkins received a call from the area ABATE chapter, inviting her to drop by their poker run.

“They made an announcement that the chamber was the recipient of all the items they were collecting on the run,” she said. “I had no idea. It was wonderful.”

The continued efforts by the chamber to make the project county-wide combined with the huge support the project receives have contributed to the huge increase in the number of angels.

Hawkins said the O.D. Mayor Foundation has been a great asset of the project for many years with their grant assistance.

The American Legion and the MidAmerica Industrial Park have also been instrumental partners.

Several companies in the industrial park have adopted dozens of angels and MAIP is doing an Angel Tree HUGS program.

“HUGS is for hats, underwear, gloves and socks,” Hawkins said.

“We have chamber members, civic clubs, churches and others who help to make this a success,” Hawkins said. “It’s definitely a team effort.”

Quilts and blankets are made all year long by local sewing groups The Patchers and Sew Much Love. Many of them go to residents of area nursing homes as well as veterans.

Several area banks have drop off boxes for the project and the Salvation Army has partnered with Wal-Mart to have boxes stationed at the local store on Nov. 29 to 30 and Dec. 6 - 7. The “Fill the Box” campaign donations will be delivered by Salvation Army to the Mayes County Angel Tree project.

Hawkins said that last year’s project got off to a late start and left little time for planning and networking. With a full year to plan, as soon as the last gift was distributed, Hawkins was preparing for this year’s Angel Tree.

“I spent the leftover gift money on after Christmas sales and clearance items to start collecting items for this year,” she said.

The chamber partnered with several local merchants, purchasing entire inventories of overstocked and clearance items in bulk.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Hawkins said. “They get rid of their stock and it’s a good thing corporately for them and we get amazing discounts.”

Last year, $40 and $50 shoes were purchased in clearance bulk for no more than $10 a pair and dozens of coats were purchased for under $5 each.

Even with the planning and the participation of so many, there is still a need for help.

“We have a couple of hundred angels that still need adoption,” Hawkins said.

Angel tree gifts can be taken to the Graham Community Center, where the command post is being set up.

“Angels need to be returned by Dec. 6,” Hawkins said.

Once all of the gifts are collected, there will be the monumental task of organizing, sorting, and distributing several thousand items. Volunteers are needed.

For more information on the Angel Tree project, contact the chamber at 918-825-0157.