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RANGELY | Rangely’s Angel Tree has a long-standing tradition of helping local children during the holidays while encouraging local families to reach out and support each other. The tree is currently coordinated by Anne Urie of the Human Resource Council (HRC).
The Angel Tree typically serves around 50 children, representing 20-25 families within the county. The kids, from birth to 18, are able to anonymously ask for a Christmas gift. According to Urie the gifts requested are often small things like a new coat or a pair of pajamas. “More than anything families and kids need clothing and shoes and then usually one special gift that they really want,” said Urie. She said they often see requests for bikes or the latest toy, “or something as simple as a blanket.”
Those requiring assistance for gifts fill out an application at the Rangely Town Hall. Shortly after filling out the application a representative from the HRC conducts a face to face interview with the applicant to learn more about their specific needs. “This all happens before Thanksgiving,” said Urie. Then the gift requests are written anonymously onto an angel and hung from a Christmas tree at Sweetbriar. The tree officially goes up the week of Thanksgiving. Once the angels are up anyone can come and claim them. “Most people just grab one angel but some families will pick a whole family off the tree,” said Urie. She estimates that an average of 30 individuals and five to 10 businesses participate every year. There are also several churches around town which adopt families, so in those instances there are likely a large number of people helping to donate the gifts.
Urie believes that the program helps provide a sense of normalcy for children in struggling families. “They get to go back after Christmas break and talk about the gifts they got and get to fit in with everyone else,” she said. “I love hearing stories from teachers and staff who work with some of those kids who were going into Christmas break with a little gloom. Then they come back with a little light of hope. I’m not saying money buys everything, but for a kid to get that one special gift or a pair of pajamas because their family is too poor or doesn’t see the need to spend money on PJ’s, it just means something.”
Urie believes people are motivated to help for a variety of reasons. “Some look at it as a duty, some look at it as helping out our community. Some do it because they were once on the angel tree themselves and now they can pay it forward. For some organizations it’s like a unity at Christmastime; they get together and help each other out. Like the church groups or the businesses where everybody buys just one thing and then bring it together. I know some of them take the whole day off work and they all go shopping together, just an Angel Tree day. I’ve had families lose a loved one and to honor them during the Christmas season they pick a kid off the angel tree and their whole family buys presents and they say it is in honor of their loved ones,” she said.
Urie and the HRC took over coordinating the Angel Tree 13 years ago. In year’s prior the program had been managed by Social Services. According to Urie the HRC is a private 501c3 that was organized in the ‘80s to meet needs within the community. The group started as a “Chevron Wives Club” and grew from there. The group handles requests for various issues including helping to get cancer patients to their appointments or providing glasses to those in need.
“To me the Angel Tree just means that there’s always angels out there watching over you, which I like to say is our awesome community here,” Urie said.