By Rachel Terry, Contributing Writer

The Salvation Army is well-known for its Christmas-time Red Kettle Campaign, where Santas or ordinary volunteers ring bells and collect donations for the needy. But this isn’t the only way the “Sallies” are spreading holiday cheer.

Every year, Asbury’s Salvation Army Student Fellowship (SASF) participates in Angel Tree, a program that provides Christmas gifts to underprivileged families who cannot afford them.

The week before Thanksgiving, SASF displayed a Christmas tree covered in tags representing the children, or “angels,” from Lexington and Danville registered in the program. The tags each had the name of a child, their gender and gift suggestions.

Danville and Lexington families assigned to angel tags were picked out by Asbury students and faculty. This year, it took SASF only four days to find sponsors for 29 children.

Angel Tree does not require its participants to be a part of the Salvation Army or even a church. This allows anyone with Christmas spirit and a compassionate heart to be involved in making a difference in a child’s life.

“People who aren’t affiliated with any church help every year.” said Anna Corbitt, vice president of SASF.

Common gift suggestions include clothing, shoes, and popular toys. Each tag includes the child’s clothing sizes and shoe size. Corporations like Walmart donate gifts to Angel Tree as well, and will often give larger-scale gifts like bicycles.

“Everyone is excited if they get a bike,” said SASF member Kelsie Harwell. “That’s a really big thing.”

Students had different reasons for signing up to sponsor a child, but all could be linked back to spreading the love and joy associated with the Christmas season.

“I thought it’d be fun to go shopping with my girlfriend,” said Angel Tree sponsor David Smith. “I had extra giving money I knew I could use to bless a kid who wouldn’t get much for Christmas.”

It takes serving in community with one another to a whole new level.

Once donors purchase gifts for their child, they drop them off at the sponsoring church—in this case, the SASF center. Students from SASF take the gifts people have donated to the Salvation Army Corps in Danville and Lexington.

A few days before Christmas, each Corps holds a distribution day. All the gifts are bagged and set up with a number system. Parents come to pick up their child’s gift, show their child’s registration number and volunteers find the bag with the corresponding number.

“Angel Tree gives students a chance to serve the local community,” said Corbitt. “It gives them a chance to serve together with friends, roommates, boyfriends and girlfriends, and families. It takes serving in community with one another to a whole new level.”

If you missed your chance to grab an angel tag and sponsor a child, watch for the SASF tree next year. Meanwhile, remember to embrace the generosity of the season.