Winter Park’s Angel Tree allows anonymous gift-giving to underprivileged |

Winter Park’s Angel Tree allows anonymous gift-giving to underprivileged

A warm pair of boots. Thermal underwear. Gloves. These are the wishes that hang from the Angel Tree at Cooper Creek Square.

Some ask for puzzles, snowboards, trampolines. Others simply say, “Anything would be great.”

For those who quickly walk by while they shop, the tree that stands in the middle of the shopping center is just another Christmas tree. But each card hanging from its branches represents a child in Grand County who is less privileged.

He or she could be a neighbor’s kid or a student ” the names aren’t listed. What is listed are their age, size, wishes and needs, so others more fortunate can provide a gift for them this holiday season.

“Some have asked for food for their parents, others for warm clothing … There’s a lot of need in the community,” said Property Manager Don Dempsey, who oversees the Angel Tree each year and ensures each child is cared for.

“A lot of people live check to check. The budget doesn’t allow for presents,” he said.

The Angel Tree began about five to six years ago, when former Property Manager Terry Morgan came up with an idea to help local children in need. The first year there were 40 to 60 kids who participated; today there are roughly 120. Each year, sponsoring agencies, groups and individuals provide a list of underprivileged children to Dempsey, who sees to it that their names make it onto the Angel Tree.

Most gifts make an impact

Shirley Hale, owner of Hale Day Care in Tabernash, has been providing lists for the Angel Tree for many years, she said. Her daily contact with friends and their children has put her in touch with some of Grand County’s less fortunate, and she believes the tree is “an absolutely wonderful project.”

She recalled the story of one particular young boy, who is very into trains.

“That’s his hobby. Trains,” Hale said. “He adds onto them all the time, and one day his engine broke. It was really expensive to fix, and his mother couldn’t afford (it).”

The boy’s card went on the Angel Tree, and for Christmas he not only unwrapped a brand new engine; he received an entirely new train set.

“He was so happy, so was his Mom. His mom was hysterical.”

Hale added that there are many families struggling in Grand County, and many of them are too proud to ask for help. The fact that the Angel Tree allows them to stay anonymous is very appealing, she said.

Ron Jones, managing partner of Cooper Creek Square, says the Angel Tree has been very successful. There are many people in the county who can help less fortunate children, he pointed out, and the tree provides that vehicle. Some annual gift-givers are members of the Fraser River Valley Lions Club, Church of Eternal Hills and the town of Fraser.

“There’s an incredible outpouring of support from the community as a whole. I think it’s the real spirit of Christmas ” what it’s all about in terms of gift giving,” Jones said.

Jones added that he is appreciative of all the hard work Morgan and Dempsey have put into the project. Every year, Dempsey’s office is packed with presents, from bicycles to snowboards to warm clothing. While any type of gift is accepted ” big or small ” Jones admitted that 90 percent of the givers “go hogwild.” Some individuals pick up five to six cards every year.

There are still a few cards that hang on the Angel Tree, waiting to be plucked. The ages range from 1 and a-half to 9 years old, but a few are for children in their teens.

While the younger ages seem to get snapped up quickly, the teenagers are the hardest cards to move, Dempsey admitted.

Either way, everyone on the tree will get something they wished for.

“You can give a little or a lot, but we will make sure every child has an abundance,” Jones said. It doesn’t matter how much one person buys ” every gift counts, he said.

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