|Bicycles and toys crowd the angel tree at the Eastern Utah Community Credit Union. This year alone the credit union will provide nearly 300 individuals with toys. Kate Alleman of the United Way, said the angel tree as whole will provide gifts to over 900 people in the area this year.|
Local residents and merchants are joining United Way and the Utah Department of Workforce Services to bring Christmas to needy families in Castle Valley through the Angel Tree program.
One major participant in the local effort is Eastern Utah Community Credit Union. Teller Barbara Robinett is one of the program's organizers and shoppers.
According to Robinett, the project started in 1995 when 40 or 50 families participated.
"We are at 280 names this year and the number just keeps growing," said Robinett.
The credit union receives names to place on the tree through the United Way database. The database is comprised of applicants who have met the income guidelines for the program.
The names are submitted with a wish list and clothing sizes from the children accepted to participate in the program.
The list items are placed on the tree for adoption by Carbon County residents and credit union members.
"We have one member who donates more than 50 coats to the angel tree. It is great to see the generosity of our community," continued Robinett.
In addition to people taking names from the tree, the credit union organizes fundraisers all year long to accumulate money for the project.
"All of the employees here work long hours around Christmas to do all the shopping and organizing that is required to make this project work," concluded Robinett.
"We love doing it," pointed out Mike Milovich, credit union president. "We know how much we help these families, but sometimes I think it is us who receives the gift of Christmas because of this project. You should see everyone tear up when the families come in to pick up the gifts."
According to Milovich, it looks like a bomb has hit the credit union every year at Christmas.
"Members give so much that the floor of the whole place is filled with toys, clothes, bikes and other stuff by the time we give it away," noted Milovich. "We will give out the gifts on Thursday and Friday and that is Christmas for me."
United Way has provided the database for the local 2006 holiday effort.
According to project coordinator Kate Alleman, United Way became the database for the program after the area lost local VISTA workers last year.
The department of workforce services and Eastern Utah Community Credit Union offices in Carbon and Emery counties have provided the applications for the angel tree program participants.
The United Way has been giving to communities at locations throughout the nation for more than 100 years.
In 1887, a Denver priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for a cooperative action to address the Colorado city's welfare problems.
The Rev. Myron Reed, Msgr. William O'Ryan, Dean Hart and Rabbi William Friedman planned the first united campaign for 10 health and welfare agencies.
The religious leaders created a organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities and coordinate relief services as well as counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies.
The organization also provides emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred to cooperating agencies in the community.
In 1887, Denver supporters of the organization raised $21,700 and created a movement that would spread throughout the county to become the United Way.
Today, United Way encompasses a national network of more than 1,300 locally governed organizations that work to create lasting positive changes in communities and people's lives.
Building on more than a century of service as the nation's pre-eminent community based fund raiser, United Way engages the community to:
Identify the underlying circumstance contributing to the most significant local issues.
Develop strategies to remedy the situations.
Organize the financial and human resources to address the social issues and concerns.
Alleman reported that the 2006 project was changed to encompass all members of the community, not only children.
"We had a 60-year-old woman ask for pajamas and food this year. With cases like that, it is easy to see that the elderly of our community may also need some assistance," said Alleman.
Because of the decision to expand the program's focus to encompass older residents, the name of the project has been changed from the angel tree to the community angel tree.
Alleman reported that a local motor vehicle dealership and the Carbon County Children's Justice Center have made significant service contributions to the project.
In addition, the program coordinator stated that all leftover toys from the Sub for Santa truck would be donated to the justice center and Castle Valley children currently placed in foster care.
"We are looking at providing toys to over 900 individuals this year and that is just amazing," commented Alleman.
Next year, Carbon and Emery counties will select a committee to oversee the project.
"This year, we really opened the project up to everyone, community agencies, business owners, local clubs and individual families because of this we have seen unprecedented giving," said Alleman. "And we want that trend to continue."