KINGSPORT — A gift to unwrap for Christmas.
A common childhood wish. For many Americans, an expectation.
But for thousands of children in our region, a new toy or new set of clothes becoming a reality on Christmas morning may hinge on whether a paper angel bearing their name is “adopted” by someone they’ll likely never meet.
More than 3,500 “angels” are waiting to be plucked from the branches of several Christmas trees at area businesses.
The Salvation Army of Kingsport’s Angel Tree program — which pairs children in need with donors who “adopt” them through a sort of “secret Santa” process — which began with a soft launch earlier this week, will have a formal kickoff today at 5 p.m. at Kingsport Town Center. The event will be on the second level of the mall outside Belk.
“We’ve got about 3,500 angels ready to go and more are coming through the process with one county yet to be turned in,” said Salvation Army Maj. Sharon Baso. “In addition, another 350 or so angels will be on the trees for those who wish to help an ‘elderberry’ this year.”
That’s several hundred more children in need than just a few years ago, looking back at old reports about the Angel Tree.
Individuals or groups who want to adopt an entire family together should contact the Salvation Army to make arrangements, Baso said.
Additional trees are, or soon will be, located at: each Kingsport Walmart Supercenter location (Fort Henry Drive and West Stone Drive); Cracker Barrel on Airport Parkway; Kroger; Cooper Standard in Hawkins County; Verizon on Stone Drive; the Eastman Employee Center; and Texas Roadhouse.
Angels dubbed “Elderberries” will be available at the Kingsport Town Center tree — pick an “Elderberry” to provide an elderly person a little brighter Christmas.
The due date for return of gifts for angels adopted from the trees is Dec. 13.
Salvation Army officials request all gifts be returned unwrapped. Placing them in gift bags, or bringing gift wrap along are encouraged.
“The idea is to make sure every parent knows what they’re giving their children for Christmas,” Baso said.
When you adopt an angel you are given their first name, age, sizes, favorite color and the description of an item they’ve “wished” for.
“Those are only suggestions,” said Baso. “People should buy what they feel comfortable buying.”
The Kingsport Salvation Army, located at 505 Dale St., provides Christmas assistance to residents of Sullivan and Hawkins counties in Tennessee and Scott, Lee and Wise counties in Virginia.
For more information, call the Salvation Army of Kingsport at 246-6671.