by Ariel McRae
Christmas time is upon us and the citizens of Humboldt are shopping for their loved ones during this season of giving. Some within the community need a little extra help to instill the holiday cheer within their children and that is where the Boys & Girls Club of Humboldt angel tree program steps up to the plate.
Santa is a busy, busy man and relies on the help of parents to truly enact the spirit of Christmas in all homes. Some parents need additional support around this financially straining time of year in order to help Santa fulfill all his duties so they apply for the angel tree program. The Humboldt Boys & Girls Club begins taking applications for the angel tree as early as September so as to help as many families as possible with their Christmas gifts and celebrations.
“If any [of our families] are in need for assistance this Christmas, then they have to submit a form that states the [clothing] size of the child and their wish list,” Humboldt Boys & Girls Club Director Gladys Robinson described of the angel tree process. “We have a deadline usually to the end of October and at that point, we know how many [kids] we have on the angel tree and how many people, businesses and foundations I will need to solicit to get those taken care of [for the kids].”
The amount of children in the angel tree program varies year to year with 57 enrolled this year. In order to help make the wishes of these children come true, the Boys & Girls Club relies heavily on sponsors to be their angels. These sponsors can be individuals or entire businesses and they can sponsor one or several children. Often, they donate to the club and Robinson shops for the presents requested at various locations and online retailers. She wraps the presents individually by hand along with some of her staff and helps bring the joy of selfless, anonymous donations to the children in the program with every gift she puts underneath the tree.
“It is very exciting just to see the smile on [the kids’] faces. A lot of parents need assistance otherwise they wouldn’t put them on the angel tree,” Robinson shared about what it is like watching the kids pick up their presents. “So just to take some of that burden off of them to try and get those gifts and things. It makes their life much easier and to see their children smile when they get some things they had on their wish list they may not have been able to afford to get them—it is priceless.”
This year, the club is hosting a sleepover event for the participants in the angel tree program as well as those within the club who did not sign up for their own angel. All the kids will come to the Boys & Girls Club on Friday, December 16 and get to spend the evening with their friends, drinking hot chocolate, decorating wreaths, making gingerbread houses and hanging out in their PJs to celebrate the end of the first semester of school. This will be a night off for parents who will not have to retrieve their children until the following afternoon around 3 p.m. after the angel tree event from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m.
“All the kids are going to have the chance to have cocoa with Santa. We will have cocoa and cookies and that kind of stuff. This year, we are going to take pictures in pajamas with Santa,” Robinson explained. “This year, the pictures that we take, we will actually give to the donors that sponsored a child.”
The Boys & Girls Club is always accepting donations for the sponsoring of children within the angel tree program as well as other various events and for the club dues year round. The organization has a fall, spring and summer schedule that costs the families various amounts to have their children attend. With the help of donors, it alleviates the financial burden for parents and prevents the children from having to be latchkey kids.
In Humboldt, the Boys & Girls Club helps kindergarteners all the way through the senior year of high school. The focus from when the children start to arrive at 2:30 p.m. and leave around 6:30 p.m. is to ensure all children are learning and developing. Homework is done, dinner is served and activities are experienced via the program staff. Everything is put together with success and love in mind for the kids attending.
“We try to make things so fun here, so [the kids] don’t think that it is like school. They never know they are actually learning things they teach them in school,” Robinson said. “It is done in a fun way.”
Currently the Boys & Girls Club of Humboldt is in need of more employees for the program staff. When the kids become juniors and seniors in high school, they can become junior staffers and actually earn money while attending the club. While this helps, the club is in need of four more regular employees. If interested please call 731-562-0067 and Robinson will direct you from there.
There is nothing like the smile of a child, especially at Christmas time, and because of the angel tree program and all the other good the Boys & Girls Club does for the children of Humboldt, the smiles are brighter than ever.