By ROSIE GITHINJI
MT. VERNON —
While many people are getting ready to put ornaments up on their trees, United Way of South Central Illinois is putting up angels for their Angel Tree program.
All the angels will be up on the tree before Thanksgiving said Executive Director Rhonda Edmonson. She said United Way would like to have all submissions for the Angel Tree program by Nov. 19.
“We don’t have actual registration, it needs to be done by referral,” Edmonson said of the program.
Recipients of the program are chosen by teachers who have identified children who have a need, Edmonson said. Last year, United Way collected almost 400 names of children to be helped by the program. She is not yet sure how many names will be collected this year, but the program covers all of Jefferson County.
The program began five years ago and when it started United Way collected toys, Edmonson said. They soon realized there were children with more basic needs, such as coats, mittens and scarves. The United Way also partners with the Mt. Vernon Rotary Club to collect donations for shoes.
“We feel like this is more in alignment with United Way values,” Edmonson said of the switch to the more basic items, which began last year. “It was really successful.”
Edmonson said each year there is a struggle to get the last 50 or 60 angels off the tree, but the community always comes through in the end.
“The program will run through Dec. 17, so the community will have a month to pick an angel off the tree,” she said, adding everything needs to be in by that time so United Way workers can purchase whatever leftover items are still needed.
People who are participating in the Angel Tree program can get an angel from Wal Mart and drop items off at United Way, which is located at 800 South 42nd St.
“I know a lot of people want to give toys and those are important, but we need to cover their basic needs first and then do the extra,” she said. “We want children to have a happy Christmas too, but we need to make sure we have just their fundamental needs first.”
The children’s ages range from mostly Kindergarten to eighth grade, but she said United Way does receive bigger size coats so they can accommodate high school students if need be.
“We want to make it as easy as possible.” she said.
Once everything is received or bought, United Way workers will organize the items, wrap them and pass them out to children on Dec. 19 before they get out of school for the Christmas holidays.
Edmonson added the United Way campaign is doing a little better than the thermometer on Broadway St. is showing, but said the campaign has been moving a little slow.
“We have had a lot going on, with the elections and everything,” she said. “Now is the time to get in here and help the community by the end of the year and reach our goal of $310,000.”
Anyone who would like additional information about the Angel Tree program, how to make a monetary donation or volunteer, may call the United Way office at 242-8000.