Angel Tree program shines in Milk River
Milk River has Christmas hamper and Angel Tree programs available over the holiday season to help those in need.
“Our Christmas Hamper and Angel Tree programs run in conjunction with each other,” said Darlene Fleming, the organizer of both events. “If a family receiving a hamper has children, they have the option of putting those children up on the tree.”
Starting in September, Fleming says, the newsletters in Milk River and Coutts make people aware of the programs and state that those in need or those who want to donate can contact Fleming to register. Fleming says that she also keeps a list of participants from previous years to see if anyone from past years still has a need for help or a willingness to donate.
Fleming says food donations are divided among the hampers, toy or gift donations go towards the children on the list, monetary donations are used to purchase Hamper items such as a turkey and other items to complete a Christmas dinner for every family. Fleming also says that sometimes there are monetary donations provided towards the hampers and the donations are used to supply food items.
“Border Services provides breakfast items for the hampers and have also volunteered to help with deliveries,” Fleming said. “The local Hutterites have been generous donators. ATCO gas and the Peace Officers have also volunteered their time to help make deliveries on delivery day.”
This year, the Angel Tree opened at Milk River’s Town Hall on Nov. 13 and any participants need to have their gifts for the tree back to Town Hall by Dec. 14.
“We have a room available at Milk River Town Hall,” Fleming said. “In the week before Christmas, the Hamper organizers, Marion Martin and Linda Cavanaugh, along with Connie Ainscough, sort the food into the different hampers. For the Angel Tree gifts, I put all gifts in a gift bag and sort into families and on the day of deliveries, the gifts and hampers go out. We typically deliver the Friday before Christmas.”
Fleming says that in the years she has been involved with the programs, the need has remained consistent with 20 to 25 families participating in the hamper program and 22 to 26 children being placed on the Angel Tree.
“The community is amazingly supportive of one another,” Fleming said. “Our community is very giving and the angels fly off the tree most years. When people don’t get an angel, they will often donate an extra toy to put towards the gifts. It’s very heartwarming to see the generosity people have! The whole community deserves a giant pat on the back. Every year, I have been involved, I have ended the year feeling such gratitude for living in a place as generous as this community is. It honestly warms my heart and restores my beliefs that there is good in this world.”
David Hawco, who was the principal of the Erie Rivers High School in Milk River, was overseeing the hamper program after the school took it over from local church groups in 2007 and saw that the need for more than hampers was major.
Hawco’s wife, Shirley, was familiar with the Angel Tree program from other communities they had lived in and felt that the community of Milk River could benefit from such a thing. Hence, the Angel Tree Program was added to the Hamper Program for Christmas 2008.
“The Hamper and Angel Tree programs give everyone the benefit of having a Christmas Dinner and presents for the children,” Fleming said. “We just really want everyone to have the best Christmas possible.”
To register to for the Hamper and Angel Tree programs, or to learn how to donate, contact Darlene Fleming at 403393-3223.
“I think both the Hamper and Angel Tree programs are a great way for everyone to come together and support the true meaning of the giving season,” Fleming said. “Life is busy and often hard, but seeing the generosity of a community coming together in the hopes that everyone has a great Christmas is truly special.”
A past Angel Tree in Milk RIver.