As the holidays approach, the thoughts of many in Mineral County are turning to how to help those less fortunate.
One way to help that’s rapidly becoming a staple in Hawthorne is the Mineral County Christmas Angel Tree.
“There are so many people in this town who just can’t afford to supply a Christmas for their child,” said Carla Hammer, CAHS financial manager. “And if you’ve ever been in a low income situation, you know we see it every day, that Christmas present can be the only thing that they get. And just for the morale in town, to try and help raise people up? We’ll do it.”
Children are chosen for the tree based on their parents’ income.
To be eligible for the tree, parents need to fill out a short form with information about their income and their children. All income and identifying information is kept confidential by CAHS, Hammer said.
“If [a parent] is finding [themselves] in a situation where [they’re] needing help with Christmas they come in, qualify income-wise to put their child on the tree,” Hammers said.
The information about the child is written on a paper ornament, usually in the shape of an angel. The ornaments are hung from a Christmas tree in Safeway, this year by Nov. 26, where they await adoption.
“We get very specific,” Hammer said. “What does your child like? Does she like princesses, does she like skateboards? Does he like basketballs? […] What’s his favorite color?”
The ornaments also include the child’s clothing size, and CAHS’ phone number so adopter can all with questions about the child’s wish list.
Hammer said the goal is for each child to receive an outfit and a toy.
She also said that each child on the tree, sometimes called angels, will receive a donation.
“Every angel that goes on that tree, every angel that gets turned into us, will receive a present,” Hammer said.
Angels who aren’t adopted by members of the community are taken care of in many ways.
Iron Nation, a charitable motorcycle club, also holds an annual toy drive and donates those toys to CAHS, and the agency uses the donations for the Mineral County Christmas Angel Tree program, Hammer said.
Additionally, some community members have trouble shopping for children and donate money instead. CAHS uses these funds to adopt some of the children left on the tree, Hammer said.
Angel adopters are asked to bring their presents unwrapped and the angel to the CAHS office by Dec. 16.
Hammer said the office makes sure the children aren’t getting anything inappropriate, like CDs with explicit lyrics, before wrapping the present and distributing it to the family on Dec. 20.
“We try to make sure that all of the siblings in the family have kind of an equal amount of presents,” Hammer said. “Sometimes one child is adopted by a family and they just get everything on that child’s list. And sometimes somebody will only get them a shirt or something like that. We go and we shop for that child who didn’t get as much. We try and make sure they all get an even amount of things so there’s no sibling rivalry there.”
The Mineral County Christmas Angel Tree program is administered by the Consolidated Agencies for Human Services in Hawthorne.
“We do not get compensated with any grants or anything like that,” Hammer said. “It’s run strictly on donations from local donations.”
Each year CAHS serves about 100 angels, Hammer said.
But the Mineral County Christmas Angel Tree isn’t the only thing CAHS is doing to help people in need.
CAHS also has a food pantry for people in need. Hammer said the pantry was in “pretty good” shape last week, but she also said that could change at any time.
“We never know what’s going to happen, and it all depends on what’s going on in town,” said Carla Hammer, CAHS financial manager. “It’s for low income people, so whenever the base has a layoff we get more people coming in. You just have to qualify income-wise and that’s it.”
CAHS always accepts donations of non-perishable, non-frozen food, Hammer said. While any donation is welcome, Hammer said the pantry is generally well stocked with canned fruits and vegetables.
More needed are donations of food that can be used to make a meal, like hamburger helper, she said.
Hammer also said food donated to the Scouting for Food program is donated to the CAHS food pantry.