NEWTOWN >> More than 1,000 angels will be taking flight throughout the Council Rock School District over the next few weeks, making the holiday season a little brighter for the area’s less fortunate children and their parents.
According to Angel Tree project organizer Paul Salvatore, the angel trees are now up and in place at the Newtown Post Office and the Free Library of Northampton Township.
Each of the angels adorning the trees is affixed with gift ideas for a child or a family identified as eligible recipients through the school lunch program and by the Council Rock School District social workers and school nurses.
In addition, a third angel tree at the Newtown Presbyterian Church will include the wishes of between 25 and 30 homeless families living in the motels along Route One and Route 13.
Participation is easy, said Salvatore. Just visit one of the trees, select an angel from the tree, purchase the gift indicated on the angel, make sure to attach the angel to the package and return it to the post office and library – unwrapped - by Friday, Dec. 11.
“It’s that simple,” said Salvatore.
“Please stop by the Newtown Post Office or the Free Library of Northampton and select an angel to make a family happy,” added Salvatore. “This is as important for the people who participate as for the people who receive because it’s the spirit of the holiday. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about giving, not receiving.”
The gifts range from toys to art supplies and are for anyone from infant to young adult and could include a house gift, like a toaster or a coffeemaker. Some of the requests are for gift cards, which can be used by the recipient to purchase items that they need, like underwear, hats, scarfs, gloves, etc.
This year the need is great, even in the affluent Council Rock School District where more than 80 families and more than 180 children will benefit.
“This year it’s especially important to participate,” said Salvatore. “There are people out there who have been laid off or lost their jobs because of the pandemic. They are hurting.
“And that’s the nice thing about our community. When people are down, they reach deeper to give and to help,” said Salvatore, who considers everyone who takes an angel from a tree this year and fulfills the wish an angel themselves for helping others.
“I have a sign at the post office that reads, ‘Be an angel. Take an angel.’ Everyone needs an angel on their side,” he said. “No matter who you are, every so often you hit a little rough patch. And then someone steps in to give you a hand. That’s your angel. So these people who take an angel off of the tree, they become an angel themselves because they are helping to make someone’s Christmas special.”
Salvatore gives lots of credit to the nurses and social workers for making the Angel tree project happen. He said they have quietly work behind the scenes for years through the Angel Tree and other projects to make a difference in the lives of students and families.
“They don’t get the credit they deserve for the work they do,” he said. “How they get these names together, it’s unbelievable. And the dedication they put into this. They’re not getting paid to do this. They’re doing it out of love and because they care about and are dedicated to these kids. Council Rock is lucky to have them.”
And then there are the ever-faithful volunteers who help transport loads of gifts from the post office and the library to the church for sorting. They include members of the Newtown Rotary Club and members and youth from the Newtown Presbyterian Church.
The Angel Trees have become a family tradition for many in the Newtown area, notes Salvatore. “You’ll see parents come out. They look for a little boy or a little girl and the kids pick them off the tree. It’s just great that people give.”
Salvatore said he remembers a woman whose husband was laid off and their family was facing a very difficult holiday season. They were among the many that benefited from the Angel Tree that year.
“The next year she was back and said, ‘You might not remember me but you brought a bag of gifts out to my car.’ She said, ‘Now we’re doing well. This year, I want to help. It’s just that way,” said Salvatore.
Salvatore got involved in the Angel Tree project more than two decades ago when the Northampton Women’s Club needed extra help with the project.
“We took the Newtown Borough, Newtown Township, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield area and they took Northampton,” said Salvatore. “That worked okay for a couple of years before their group disbanded and we took over the whole thing.”
Salvatore, working with the school nurses and social workers, recruited volunteers from the community to continue the effort.
“It’s just an amazing project and the nurses and social workers should get all the credit in the world,” he said.
The donated and unwrapped gifts should be returned to the post office and library no later than Dec. 11 if not sooner. They will then be sorted by youth and volunteers at the Newtown Presbyterian Church on Dec. 13 and distributed to the neediest in the area on Monday, Dec. 14 just in time for the holiday season.
In addition to the gifts, the recipients will be receiving gift certificates in the mail from the Kiwanis Club to purchase food for their holiday meals.
Salvatore said one of the best parts of the project is seeing the end result, which many don’t get to experience due to privacy issues.
“You’ll see the tears of joy as we’re giving them the gifts. And they’ll tell you, ‘I didn’t know what I was going to do.’ For everyone who takes an angel, I want them to think about that. You’re making a difference where it counts the most.”
If anyone wants an angel and can’t make it to the library or post office they can contact Salvatore by calling 215-312-3527 or email firstname.lastname@example.org