Applications still open for Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program

NILES — While Christmas may still be more than a month away, one southwest Michigan organization is looking to help supply families with some holiday cheer.

Applications will be open until Friday for local families in need to sign up for the Salvation Army’s annual Angel Tree program. The program aids families with supplying children ages 16 or younger with Christmas gifts and/or a contribution toward a holiday meal.

Applications can be found online at saniles.org or on the Salvation Army — Niles, MI Facebook page. Residents can also apply by calling (269) 684-2660.

Nationwide, the Angel Tree program has been running annually since 1979.

“We are here for whoever needs help,” said Niles Salvation Army Lt. Kendra Hixenbaugh. “If you need the help, please sign up and please sign up soon. If you think you might need help, sign up now, so we can get the need out there and let the community know they can help.”

Once applications are in, Christmas trees with tags containing a child’s gender, age and suggested Christmas gift ideas will be placed around Berrien and Cass counties. Residents will be encouraged to take a tag and buy presents for that child to be returned to the Salvation Army no later than Dec. 4. Tags can also be acquired by calling the Salvation Army at (269) 684-2660 or email kendra.hixenbaugh@usc.salvationarmy.org.

“It’s a great way to make a child’s Christmas special this year,” Hixenbaugh said. “Even if you don’t have a lot to spend, even that little bit is going to make a difference in a child’s life. They are going to be able to open a gift on Christmas morning, and it will definitely help us make that child’s Christmas special, as well.”

As of Monday, Niles Salvation Army post had received applications from 166 families for the Angel Tree program, an increase over years past.

“With the pandemic. We have noticed an increase in need,” Hixenbaugh said. “I have a few hundred kids to fill these tags for, so the more help we can get, the better. We really want to get these tags filled.”

Hixenbaugh said she believes the Angel Tree program is important every year. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting added stress on families, she wants this year’s program to be successful in putting a positive cap at the end of an otherwise challenging year.

“With everything going on, I would hope we can make Christmas just a little bit more normal,” Hixenbaugh said. “Even before this, we had clients who weren’t able to afford to give their families a good Christmas, so just being able to help with that and being able to at least take that burden off their backs is nice.”

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