There are going to be a lot more angels in Wake County this Christmas season. But don’t think of that is a good thing. "We saw a huge jump last year as well,” says Haven Sink.
Sink is the spokeswoman for the Salvation Army of Wake County. And the angels I’m talking about are children from economically challenged families. The kids will be represented by angel symbols on Christmas trees in the local malls. As we move into the Salvation Army’s busiest season of the year, the faith-based agency’s Angel Tree program is up and running again.
“Last year we went from 5,600 kids (in 2009) to 7,200 kids, just because the economy went south,” says Sink. “And we know it's really not gotten any better this year."
In fact, the Salvation Army says 7,782 children ages 12 and under will be represented by angels this year -- an increase of more than 500. The Angel Tree program helps provide Christmas gifts for those children. Qualifying families are registered to receive a stocking and new clothing, and to visit the Salvation Army’s Toy Shop. The gifts are distributed in mid-December. But those items first have to be donated by the public -- by you.
"We have volunteers who help people choose an angel off the tree," says Sink, "and then those same volunteers can accept the donations that come back, right there at the mall. So people can shop for a child while they're out doing their holiday shopping, and bring those items right back to the Angel Tree location in the mall."
The Salvation Army will need more than 24,000 new toys, clothing items, and stocking stuffers to be donated in November and December. Additionally, the agency will rely on hundreds of volunteers to help with set up and distribution. If you’d like to help, visit their website at www.keepthebellringing.org, and look for the Angel Trees at Crabtree Valley Mall, Triangle Town Center, and Cary Towne Center.
“We do see a huge response from the community every year,” Sink told me, “but with the increase in children registered the past two years, it has been very difficult for us to meet the needs. We provide something for every child that is registered in our system but we do have a hard time making it a very meaningful gift sometimes since we have so many children. It's hard for the community to keep up.”
There are a lot of compassionate people in our area. Let’s see if every “angel” is covered this year.
Speaking of compassionate people, folks in Carthage are showing their support for a young man who’s fighting a very serious illness – and now that support has gone international. 12-Year-old Cooper Ellington suffers from a genetic condition called VHL disease. Last summer he underwent a 12-hour surgery to remove a tumor on his brain stem, and he’s now involved in intense rehabilitation therapy.
A Facebook page has been set up --"Praying for Cooper Ellington" -- to help the family with prayers and support. In a short time it’s picked up members from all 50 states and seven other countries. Supporters have also distributed 2,500 "Praying for Cooper" bracelets.
What’s it like being a Muslim in North Carolina today? Members of the Muslim Student Association at Duke University fanned out across the state to find out. Eight students used their fall break to visit Muslims in several cities and towns, and to record their experiences. You can read about it in their blog at this link.
I can taste it now. On Friday (November 4th), Raleigh’s Hayes Barton Baptist Church is having its 4th annual Barbecue Dinner Missions fundraiser. There’ll be music, fellowship, fun – and of course, lots of ‘cue. Drive-thru, pick-up, and delivery. You can find the details here.
In a case that could have national implications, the Forsyth County, NC, Board of Commissioners has appealed to the US Supreme Court in their effort to overturn a judicial ban on sectarian prayers at Commission meetings. The issue hit the courts when some citizens objected to the name of Jesus being mentioned in opening prayers at meetings. You can read more about the case here.
Congratulations to Salvation and Deliverance Church of Tarboro, winner of Verizon’s 2011 "How Sweet the Sound" national choir competition. That’s right – national competition. This past Friday in Los Angeles, that smalltown church choir won top honors against singers from across the country and was given the title, “Best Overall Choir.” What makes them so good? You’ll see what wowed the judges in a video clip from an earlier regional competition they won. I promise you, you’ve never heard Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus quite like this.