Salvation Army's Angel Tree program aims to help those in need

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SARASOTA, FL -- The countdown till Christmas is on.  And now that it's a month out, we've started decorating here at ABC 7. But aside from making our lobby more festive, the tree we have up benefits a much greater cause... It is our Angel Tree.

The Salvation Army puts on the Angel Tree program every year, making sure Suncoast families in need have the Christmas they deserve.  And now, they need some help to make that happen.

This Christmas, Heather Wade is finding herself in the same situation as 900 other Sarasota families. “This Christmas, I can't afford to buy presents for my son,” says Wade.  But thanks to the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program, 2-year old AJ will have the Christmas he deserves. “He loves Woody...and Toy Story.  Buzz, he loves Buzz.”

Within the next couple of weeks, a gym at the Salvation Army will be full of toys. Captain Jim Spencer says right now, they're in the staging process, distributing the angels and collecting the toys. “We currently have about 2,000 children in the database that will be served this year and receiving toys this Christmas season, and about 400 senior citizens who will also receive gifts this Christmas season from the Angel Tree program.”

Captain Spencer says this year's need is about the same as last year, with about 900 families receiving gifts from the Angel Tree program. “Because of the economic issues we've struggled with over the last year, for a lot of families, it is the only gifts they'll be able to provide for their children.”

And thanks to the Angel Tree program, kids like AJ will have a Christmas to remember. “Christmas is about helping others, and giving, and sometimes we get carried away and we can be selfish but it's all about helping others,” says Wade.

If you would like to pick up an angel, there are plenty here at ABC 7. Each child participating in the program is given an angel with their wish list.  Then once you pick an angel, you return it with those items, unwrapped, to the station lobby by December 13th, and the Salvation Army takes care of the rest.

The lobby is located at 1477 10th Street in Sarasota, and is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 till 5.