12/11/05 — Trees for county's needy children have plenty of names to choose

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Trees for county's needy children have plenty of names to choose

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on December 11, 2005 2:06 AM

Christopher, 5, wants toy cars and trucks, while DaShonae, 7, would love to get a Barbie doll. Zsanequia would like a sewing machine, while JaThomas, 9, is hoping for sports items.

These are just a few of the wishes Wayne County's needy children have placed on Angel Trees around the county as part of the Salvation Army's annual holiday drive.

But the only way their Christmas wishes will come true is if a stranger picks his or her name off a tree at Berkeley Mall, Wal-Mart, Gold's Gym or the exchange at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The trees at all the locations are decorated with the names of needy children for whom that the Salvation Army is seeking toy donations.

Maj. Andrew Wiley said response to the Angel Trees has been slow this year.

"The tags have just not gone as well as in past years. I'm hoping as we move into December, it will begin to pick up soon," Wiley said. "We need the community to really get behind this effort and take a name off a tree. Anything they can do to help us is appreciated."

Wiley said the names of the children came from families who applied at the Salvation Army for help. The children's first names and ages are written on tags and placed on the trees in the hope someone will want to buy gifts for them.

Gifts must be ready by Monday. Used items are not accepted, only new toys or clothes.

"No matter the circumstance, every child deserves a new toy on Christmas morning," Wiley said.

Some tags have an angel on them and no name. Wiley said this is because every year there are some children whose names don't make it onto the tree and others whose name gets onto the tree and someone takes the tag, but gets busy and forgets to buy a gift.

"So this year we opted to put a few angel tags on the trees that are very generic," Wiley said. "Those gifts will be used when a child's name doesn't make it onto a tree or doesn't come back. It's a way to cover our bases."

Berkeley Mall has three Wish Trees for the 10th year. They bore the names of 625 boys and girls and more than 200 senior citizens.

Mall manager Linda Priestly said the all the tags on the senior tree were chosen. Seniors asked for items such as postage stamps, hand lotion, body lotion, soap, towels and washcloths, throw blankets, pens and paper and sweaters.

"I'm a little bit surprised. I was thinking that because of all the Katrina help and rising cost of fuels wish trees would be slow this year. But maybe it's because of that that people feel they need to help someone here at Christmas," she said.

The mall started participating in the Wish Trees program a decade ago because "We wanted to do something to be more involved with the community," Ms. Priestly said. "The year before we started, there was a story in the paper about a woman who took a truckload of toys that were supposed to go to some children. We wanted to do something locally where we could control what actually happened."

The trees went up Nov. 11.

Ms. Priestly said anyone choosing a name from a tree at the mall is asked to deliver a wrapped gift to Kay Jewelers by Monday.

Gifts will be picked up daily and later distributed to the children and adults for whom they are intended.

Giving a gift to a stranger might not be part of someone's Christmas plans but it can go a long way toward making the holidays brighter for a child or older person, Ms. Priestly said. It also almost always lifts the spirits of the giver, she added.

"To help other people, that's what the true meaning of Christmas is about," she said.