“When the Angel Tree first started,” Lieutenant León Ferraez of the Salvation Army said, “it really wasn’t about angels. There were Salvation Army officers in the Carolinas who saw a need for gifts for kids on Christmas day, so they listed all of their wants and needs, and it just so happened that what they had left over that season were these postcards that had angels on them.” Since businesses and organizations already had Christmas trees, it made sense for them to have the angel cards hang on the trees. “From that point on, the connection was made: angels and an angel tree.”
The USNA Giving Tree Gives Holiday Joy
Since 1992, this angel tree tradition has manifested at the Academy as the Giving Tree that was started as a partnership between the Salvation Army and the USNA service Extra Curricular Activity, the Midshipmen Action Group (MAG). Together, they worked to provide holiday presents to the Annapolis area children in need. In 1998, to boost participation and success, the 6th Company took ownership of the initiative, and they do so to this day. “It really is difficult to put into word the impact this has on the children of Annapolis,” says Lieutenant Laurie Ferraez, also from the Salvation Army. “There are children who would not have a Christmas without this. That’s difficult to see when you’re working with children, so this is one way we can provide them with gifts they want and need.”
It’s a deeply important gesture. Each year for this special tradition, the Salvation Army compiles a list of the wants and needs they request; they then create paper tags with angels on them, listing the child’s first name, age, gender, clothing sizes, and their gift wishes whose parents or guardians are unable to provide. Wishes run the gamut from toys, musical instruments, electronics, bicycles, shoes, diapers, winter clothes, and much more.
USNA midshipmen decorate the GivingTree and Menorah with these paper “ornaments in the beautiful Bancroft Hall Rotunda, and then conduct a special tree lighting ceremony to officially kick off the donation season. You can see a recent ceremony here. Once the gifts are purchased, donors place the unwrapped gifts under the Giving Tree. The Salvation Army then gathers, wraps, and gives these presents to the children with anonymous tags. People are very generous; it is not unusual to see gifts worth hundreds of dollars from donors.
Take An Angel
Anyone who wants to donate is encouraged to take one or more ornaments and provide any number of gifts for the children listed on them. The 6th Company works diligently to match each ornament up with a donor. They reach out to the community with emails, posters, a public service announcement, a Facebook page featuring the Giving Tree, and more,in order to inspire midshipmen, faculty, staff, and community members to take part. This has worked exceedingly well, often providing the spirit of holiday generosity to over 500 children.
There was a private opening ceremony on November 22 and the deadline for collecting gifts this year was the morning of December 5, 2022. During the opening ceremony, the tree and Menorah were lit. The Superintendent, Midshipmen and Salvation Army leadership addressed the attendees and the Naval Academy band played festive holiday music to kick off the season of angels.
Small Gifts Make Big Impacts
Are you looking for a meaningful way to give back this holiday season? Consider visiting the USNA Giving Tree. You’ll be helping a child who may be getting very little receive something a little extra this year through your generosity. While it may be a small gift in your eyes, it can make a huge impact in someone’s life.
If you come to see the tree, take some time to enjoy the Yard as well. Your presence is a real gift, since every tour you experience, visit you take, meal you enjoy, and shopping trip you make gives back to the Brigade. Our profits go to the USNA midshipmen. We hope your holidays are extra meaningful this year!