By TEDDYE SNELL
Coordinators for Angel Tree programs are taking applications to ensure area children who are less fortunate have at least one gift to open on Christmas.
Amber Masters, of CREOKS Behavioral Health, is spearheading this year’s county-wide effort, with help from Kid Connections and Help-In-Crisis volunteers.
“We will be taking applications beginning Wednesday, Nov. 13, through Saturday, Nov. 16, at the CREOKS office, 711 S. Muskogee Ave.,” said Masters. “Wednesday through Friday, applications may be filled out between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.”
Masters helped with Kid Connections’ Angel Tree efforts last year, and when the agency sold its building to Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity, she realized more help would be needed to get the 2013 project off the ground.
“I just kind of volunteered to take over the project as a volunteer [coordinator],” said Masters. “We’re going to have help from Kid Connections and Help-In-Crisis, but the central location will be CREOKS.”
Those being considered for Angel Tree applications range from birth to 16. Applicants must provide proof of income for all household members over age 18; proof of address in Cherokee County; a photo ID; clothing sizes for each child; and one to two reasonably-priced ideas for each child. Family monthly income guidelines are: one person, $1,149; two, $1,551; three, $1,953; four, $2,355; five, $2,757; six, $3,159; seven, $3,561; and eight, $3,963.
Masters hopes to have applications processed and trees distributed Monday, Nov. 18.
“Walmart has agreed to have some, and NSU is adopting a tree, along with Century 21 and NeoHealth,” said Masters. “Honestly, we’re having a hard time getting entities to host trees this year.”
The Angel Tree project is a community initiative and is not funded by any single agency or grant funding.
“We welcome the participation of local businesses and community members,” said Masters.
“They can either adopt angels, make donations of toys, clothes or money, or host toy or clothing drives. Without the help of local businesses and community members, Angel Tree is not possible.”
Nearly 900 youngsters served in 2012
Last year, the project served 889 youth in Cherokee County.
“We’re hoping to have all the gifts purchased by Friday, Dec. 13, and have all gifts delivered by Wednesday, Dec. 18.,” said Masters. “This is a huge project, and we need all the volunteers we can get.”
Bridget Tobey, director of Kid Connections, said staff from the agency plans to volunteer again this year.
“We’ve been a part of that program for over 10 years,” said Tobey. “But, since we sold our building, we just don’t have the room or the staff to house it. That said, we’ll be helping with applications to getting the trees ready, to shopping for and delivering gifts.”
Sarah Franke, of Help-In-Crisis, said the agency’s Angel Tree project is two-pronged.
“We have our own, which serves children in our shelter and the Helping You Grow clients,” said Franke. “Generally, that amounts to between 70-100 angels. We also help with the county-wide project. Often people who have gone through our agency a year ago will seek this program out, so it’s helpful to have familiar faces from HIC taking the applications. We will also be bringing a translator to CREOKS during the application period, to help with families that don’t speak English.”
The Cherokee Nation has its own project, known now as Angels of the Cherokee. It provides gifts for Cherokee children who live within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. Last year, more than 2,000 children were served.
The Cherokee Nation began taking applications Monday, and will continue through 5 p.m. Friday, at the W.W. Keeler Complex, 17675 S. Muskogee Ave. Children must be 16 or younger to qualify.
Applicants must provide proof of income for all household members over 18, proof of residency, each child’s CDIB card and clothing size.
A family of three must not exceed $1,953 in household income per month, and a family of four must not exceed $2,018.
The tribe’s project recently received a hefty boost, as the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission raised $3,000 for the effort
The staff of 27 started a donation fund in January with the option to pay $2 a day or $20 a month to wear jeans to work, which ended up tripling the $900 raised in previous years.
“When we deliver gifts to smiling Cherokee kids, it means the world,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “The generosity of our community and our employees means every child with an angel on the tree has their Christmas wish granted.”
To donate or volunteer with the Cherokee County Angel Tree, call Amber Masters at (918) 207-0078, Ext. 137. To make a donation of volunteer for the Help-In-Crisis Angel Tree, call Sarah Franke at (918) 456-0673. To donate to the Cherokee Nation’s Angels of the Cherokee program, call (918) 266-5626.
To learn more about the history and growth of the Angel Tree program, go to www.tahlequahdailypress.com/onlineexclusives