A student-driven annual tradition at Plymouth State University this year provided gifts for nearly 600 children from 16 area agencies and many families.
“Angel Tree is a huge project for our students-the need increases every year,” says Nancy Conklin, coordinator of the Community Service Learning Center at PSU. Here’s how it works.
Student coordinators, this year Candice Campbell (senior early childhood studies major from Simsbury, Conn.), contact area agencies for lists of families who need holiday gifts for their children they serve. Working from the lists, students create red paper angels for each child, with information about age and sizes and wants, if known. A tree in the Hartman Union Building (HUB) is bedecked with the angels, and students and employees are invited to be angels and select children for whom to purchase gifts. Some needs are very practical-winter coats, hats, gloves, boots, long underwear-and some are more whimsical-favorite toys of the day, special sweets, etc.
“I started doing this when my son was a child,” says one longtime participant. We would select a child about his age, and he would pick out the gifts, using some of his allowance and a bit of help from Mom. It was so good for him to see that some children might have only the gifts he purchased. I still pick up a couple of angels every year, and try to get all the practical things, plus some toys. I am always careful to include batteries and a charger if I buy a toy that needs batteries!”
The return date for wrapped gifts is early in December and then the PSU students shift into very high gear as a steady stream of gift-laden people trek through the HUB. All the gifts have to be tabulated against the master list, using the red paper angels as identifiers, and sorted by the organizations and children to which they will be distributed.
Approaching the delivery date this year, brightly wrapped packages stuffed a room in the HUB, leaving hardly enough space for the students to work.
“It takes a lot of organization, but Plymouth State folks have a culture of giving,” Conklin says. This year was no different. Even with a 20 percent increase in requests, with a bit of extra help from the Seacoast Toys for Tots project, headed by PSU student Andrew McLean’s father, none of the children whose names were submitted will be without a special package under their holiday tree.