An­gel Tree pro­gram shines in Milk River

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Front Page - BY HEATHER CAMERON

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.”

File photo

A past An­gel Tree in Milk RIver.

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