12,664: The number of individuals who received gifts or the ingredients for a holiday family dinner last year through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree and Food Angel programs.
To quantify the significant number, Major Debra Ashcraft, the Central Kentucky’s point person for the Salvation Army’s huge annual holiday Christmas-focused initiatives explained, “Currently, we have two key program initiatives: Angel Trees, for requested gifts for kids, and Food Angels, for requested help with family Christmas meal food.” She added, “Families applying are all in the low-income category and many have encountered unexpected hardships such as job loss, reduction of work hours, or high medical bills.
“Our Angel Tree outreach is the focus of our quest to provide toys and clothing for children in our tri-county area: Fayette, Scott, and Jessamine. The Salvation Army in Lexington has been the ‘clearing house’ for holiday help for kids for nearly 30 years, working with the Fayette County Fire Department, churches, and various agencies to stretch community donations by avoiding duplication. Last year’s requests set a record (12,664 individuals served), and candidly, we anticipate that this year’s numbers  may even be more dramatic.
Which initiative generates the most response from the public?
According to Major Ashcraft “Our annual Angel Tree campaign. We’ve been blessed with extraordinary response to this special program over the years, and we already have a sense that this year’s Angel Tree will top that 2012 milestone. 
Major Ashcraft added, “Our wish list for youngsters in the tri-county area is already huge again this year (we expect to be requested to fulfill close to 6000 ‘asks’). Some will be for just one child, others will be for several children in the family…and yes, each and every one of these youngsters is hoping/praying/expecting to receive what he or she asked for this year. We fulfilled all the requests in 2012—thanks to an amazing outpouring of support from the community at large—we need to repeat and likely exceed that outpouring of generosity again this year. 
What happens when a child’s Angel Tree card/tag is not selected or a gift not returned? “Using angel tree monetary contributions, we go shopping for these children.” Major Ashcraft added, “If you’re reading this article and want to help Angel Tree children, but you  are not able to shop, please send us a donation specified for the Angel Tree and we’ll do the shopping for you. We’ve got a team of trained shoppers on standby, hoping to be utilized!”
Along with the Angel Tree, Salvation Army holiday initiatives also focus on providing ingredients to families for a festive Christmas dinner. This outreach opportunity involves “Food Angel” trees at area Kroger stores which enable shoppers to provide the funds for a registered family to receive a gift card which will, in turn allow the purchase of food and condiments at Kroger to create a family Christmas feast. The trees will be in place at the Lexington, Georgetown and Nicholasville Kroger store locations on November 23rd; those who are willing to help provide these meals are requested to select a tree ornament at Kroger, pay for its stated value at ‘check- out,’ and know that through your personal or family generosity a local family will be able to celebrate this traditional holiday around a table with not only delicious food, but also with hope.
When asked if there were restrictions on the food items purchased thru the Food Angel initiative, Major Ashcraft noted “Most of our family recipients in this program select what we’d all describe as items for a traditional Christmas meal; turkey, dressing, some type of potatoes, perhaps gravy mix, bread or rolls, and some kind of holiday dessert. However, families are free to select foods that best suit their individual preferences, and that may mean rice rather than potatoes or beef rather than turkey. Of course we have restrictions on what can be purchased – specifically, no tobacco or non-food items of any kind can be used for the Food Angel options.”
She added, “Although our commitment to the communities we serve is to help with whatever challenges we’re presented with year round, there is a special emphasis on the Christmas initiative because of the significant number of children who deserve to enjoy the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, and also be given the opportunity ‘to feel special’ during the holidays. We know there are families with children in our service area who are facing the reality of a very meager Christmas this year. These folks depend on the generosity of others perhaps more fortunate than they to provide a ‘respite from reality’ for a few days during this blessed season. On behalf of The Salvation Army corps and our amazing supporters across our service area—we wish you peace, joy, and love, and we thank you for your consideration in helping us make the Star in Bethlehem glow even brighter this year.”

Posted on 2013-12-01 by Mary Ellen Slone