It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
For Dawn Hamilton it is, anyway.
It’s also the busiest.
Hamilton has been organizing the community’s Angel Tree initiative for the past “eight-or-so” years. It’s a ton of work, she says, but it’s also super rewarding.
“I’d been involved with the Angel Tree in some capacity for about 13 years,” Hamilton says. The first year, she saw the article about the tree in the Mirror, went down to the tree and took a tag. The next year she asked if they needed help wrapping, which they did. The year after that she was helping coordinate. Now she’s in charge.
For those who somehow don’t know about the 30-or-so-year-old initiative, the Angel Tree is a Christmas tree that goes up in the lobby of the Discovery Inn, decorated with lights and ornaments just like any other festive conifer. This one, however, is also covered with tags that community members can come remove from the tree.
Each tag has the age, gender and needs of a child in our community who might not be getting any Christmas gifts this year. The person – or family or business or community group – who takes the tag off the tree heads off, shops for the items on the tag and brings them back so they can be given to the child.
For example, one tag on the tree this year is for a 13-year-old boy who needs a shirt (he’s a size medium), pants, underwear, socks, shoes and a sweater. He’s into rocks, crystals and minerals and his favourite colours are orange, black and red.
“So if you were to pull this tag, you might go and buy the socks and pants and a couple of crystals,” Hamilton says. “You’re not, in any way, obliged to buy everything that’s on here.”
That’s because Hamilton and her crew use whatever monetary donations that are given each year to “top-up” the children’s lists once everything has been collected and they go through it all. They’ve recently become a registered charity, too, so those monetary donations are now eligible for a tax receipt.
“We’d been thinking about going that direction for a couple of years,” Hamilton says. “We’ve had to turn away businesses, in particular, who wanted to donate what would have possibly been large amounts of money, because they needed it to go to a registered charity. They needed that tax receipt.”
So they set up a board of directors – of which Hamilton is president – and became a society. Then they went the proverbial extra mile and became a charity.
They’re hoping the potential extra funds they can gain from being able to issue tax receipts will help them keep up with the increasing demand. This year, Hamilton says, will see the largest amount of tags ever placed on the tree. She expects to break 400 tags this year for the first time.
“Right now, we’re at 384, but it’ll grow, because we always get last minute ones from the agencies we partner with,” Hamilton says. They partner with seven community social service agencies that support families in our community who supply the information of the children in need, many of whom wouldn’t get a gift at all this year if it weren’t for this initiative.
The tree officially opens for the public to come take tags as of 4 p.m. Friday (Nov. 30), coinciding with Starlight Shopping. The volunteers will be there until 9 p.m. that night and then every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Dec. 9.
For more information, you can contact them through their Facebook page (@downtownangeltree) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or head down and talk to them at the Discovery Inn.