Christmas wishes Forty angels left with only two weeks to go

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 10, 2002

It’s two weeks before Christmas and a local 4-year-old girl wants a shirt … and if it isn’t too much, a pair of pants. And maybe, just maybe, if she crosses her little fingers and wishes hard enough, she’ll even get a dress.

Another girl, 12, wants a coat; a 10-year-old boy, a belt; and an 8-year-old boy wants underwear.

Many of the &uot;wants&uot; on the Angel Tree at Columbiana’s Winn Dixie bear a striking resemblance to needs.

&uot;Kids are supposed to have these things,&uot; said Winn Dixie’s Carrie Pearson. &uot;You hate to think there are kids who have to say, ‘I want a toothbrush for Christmas’.&uot;

The Owens House Angel Tree is decorated with the wish-lists of area children who have been physically and sexually abused.

Volunteers are asked to take an angel off the tree, purchase the items requested and return them to Winn Dixie by Dec. 15 so they can be wrapped and delivered to the child by Christmas.

Winn Dixie sponsors the tree for the Owens House, Shelby County’s child advocacy center, an organization that serves the needs of victimized children and their families.

There are some requests for &uot;fun&uot; items on the tree &045; a guitar, a barbie jeep, CDs and more &045; but they are surrounded by those for such everyday basics as shirts, pants, socks and shoes.

&uot;All children deserve their needs, but this time of year they also deserve something frivolous,&uot; Pearson said.

Shelby County residents can make sure these local children have Christmas by participating in the Angel Tree program, said Helen Rardin of the Owens House.

&uot;We see hurting children all year long that have suffered from sexual abuse and severe physical abuse, so we think about all the bad people, the perpetrators,&uot; Rardin said. &uot;It’s nice this time of year to be reminded of all the good people who come forward to help these children.&uot;

As excited as Rardin and Pearson are about the program, they are starting to worry about the number of angels still hanging on the tree.

More than 40 angels remained unclaimed at presstime.

Frieda Pearson, Carrie Pearson’s sister-in-law, also works at Winn Dixie.

Freida said she comes to work every day hoping to see a pile of packages for the children, but so far few have actually been brought back to the store.

Rardin said that the gifts will be adjusted if some angels aren’t taken so that no child will be left with nothing.

But what that means is that some children with already short lists will only receive a fraction of the little they asked for.

Carrie Pearson helped start the Angel Tree program with Owens House last year.

She said every angel, around 80 total, was sponsored last year.

However, many of those were taken at the last minute by Winn Dixie employees like Carrie and Frieda Pearson.

It will take much more participation to assure the more than 140 angels on this year’s tree get sponsored.

When discussing ideas for community involvement, the staff at Winn Dixie agreed it was important to keep the program local.

&uot;These are not children from Birmingham like a lot of the other angel trees around,&uot; Carrie Pearson said. &uot;These are actually children in our community.&uot;

Store manager Matthew Clair agreed.

&uot;We realized we needed to do something for the community,&uot; said Clair. &uot;Christmas has become so commercialized and this is a chance to actually do something important for the community.&uot;

The Owens House Angel Tree serves children who are between the ages of 3 and 18.

Rardin said the lists for the angel tree are generally short to make them affordable for those who wish to help.

&uot;We serve a lot of children who don’t get help from other sources because they don’t qualify,&uot; Rardin said.

For information or to sponsor an angel visit Winn Dixie in Columbiana