By KELLY STILES | The Arkadelphian
The Junior Auxiliary of Arkadelphia, a local nonprofit whose purpose is supporting the youth of Clark County, aims to collect Christmas gifts for over 350 children through the yearly “Angel Tree” program.
The Department of Human Services provides the JA with a list of children whose parents or guardians are unable to purchase Christmas presents. The JA transports each child’s information to a tag, excluding identifying information, according to Donna Sparks, JA president.
Tags hung on Christmas trees around town include a kid’s age, gender, and a handful of items the child wants or needs. When a tag is accepted, that person purchases the items listed then drops them off during drives at specified locations. The JA purchases presents for any child whose tag is not accepted.
While the JA collects funds for this program year-round, Christmas tree tags allow the community to engage in generosity, and each gift donated allows the nonprofit to reallocate funds to other important projects. The organization is also involved in “Backpacks for Kids”, “Camp Kaleidoscope”, their annual scholarships to graduating seniors from both Arkadelphia High School and Gurdon High School, and more.
Sparks has made it a tradition for her grandchildren to choose a tag, then help pick out gifts. “It teaches kids to give,” said Sparks.
Henderson State University is hosting an Angel Tree toy drive basketball game on Dec. 1 starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Duke Wells Center. Fans who bring a toy will receive free admission to the doubleheader against Southern Arkansas University.
Angel Trees can be found at Walmart on W.P. Malone Drive, Southern Bancorp on Pine Street, and Gurdon Pharmacy on South 6th Street. Gifts are to be dropped off on Dec. 8 or 10 from 5-7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church on Pine Street.
Another JA event, “Breakfast with Santa”, will take place on Dec. 10 from 9 a.m. until noon at Perritt Primary School. Kids can get their picture taken with Santa when they bring one non-perishable food item to be given to a family in need during the holiday season.