This year's annual Angel Tree went up on Nov. 12 at the Milk River Town Office.
For those who would like to participate by purchasing a gift for a child please visit the Town Office and pick up an angel. Once the age-appropriate gift is purchased, please leave the gift unwrapped and attach the angel tag to the gift and return it by Dec. 13.
There's also a Christmas hamper program too. Food donations can be dropped off at the Town Office or at the Coutts Village Office. Cash donations can be made through the Milk River Town Office and a tax receipt can be issued.
“We have about 26 families receiving hampers this year,” said volunteer Darlene Fleming. And close to that number of children's names went up on the Angel Tree, as the two initiatives run in tandem with one another each year during the holidays. Which are pretty consistent numbers each year. “We usually have between 20-25 families and angels.”
Hamper deliveries are completed the last Friday before Christmas. “It's all run by volunteers,” Fleming said. Currently, the program is run out of the Town Office. “They let us use council chambers the last week before Christmas.”
Angel Tree donations are added to the hampers prior to delivery and volunteers will help deliver the hampers.
“It's just a really big community effort to help make this program run. We're all just volunteers wanting to make people's Christmases a bit easier in the area,” said Fleming. The program runs in Milk River and Coutts. “Warner does their own program.”
Milk River also has a food bank, but the Christmas hamper program is run separately. “We only do this once a year, just at Christmas time. Within our hampers, they'll get a turkey and a bag of potatoes. Everything they kind of need to make a Christmas dinner plus whatever food donations that have come into the town,” Fleming explained. “The grocery store in town is amazing for getting donations of little packages people can buy. The local Hutterites are very generous in donating to us.”
Fleming said while Milk River has a food bank and it often refers people to the Christmas hamper initiative, “We don't run it with the food bank.”
Of course, being a small town, a lot of the volunteers help out with both.
Launched in November 1991 by the Border Counties Tree of Hope Committee, this year marks the 28th Annual Tree of Hope campaign in Milk River.
Theresa Thompson provides administrative support at the Milk River Health Centre and is one of the main volunteers behind the campaign this year. Funds raised this year will go towards ceiling lifts in long-term care and a new ECG machine. “Ceiling lifts in long-term care actually help with lifting the residents in extreme pain,” Thompson said, adding lifts also provide safety for residents and staff.
“Another goal is to raise funds for a new ECG machine for the emergency department - vital for people with cardiac issues,” Thompson noted.
Donors can make donations to the Milk River Health Centre and in a memo please write, “A Donation to the Tree of Hope.” And, donors will receive a donation receipt with any donations over $20. All the proceeds will go towards the two aforementioned items.
Funds have been coming in over the past few weeks for this year's campaign, Thompson said. “If I do a guesstimate, we've already raised over $2,000.” The campaign started at the end of October and donations can be made all year long.
“The donations for the ECG machine, if we don't make enough, it will carry over because it is a larger donation request. If we make it, then as of October of next year – we pick a new thing we need,” Thompson said. “We have received a very generous donation we are currently purchasing a ceiling lift with. We have six ceiling lifts we need to purchase.”
Last year, over $6,000 was raised, thanks to the Tree of Hope campaign. Proceeds raised last year went to the centre's Snoezelen Room. “It's a multi-sensory room for dementia patients.”
Bulbs with donors' names are placed on the Tree of Hope tree.