Where Have All The Angels Gone?

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We've received a number of inquiries asking what happened to the traditional Angel Tree program in Rim Country. Readers have expressed concern because, for many residents, the Angel Tree program was a simple, effective way for seniors and children alike to help others during the holiday season.

While the program may not be operating this year, there are still angels among us working to bring the joy of Christmas to families and individuals in need.

The Public Safety Christmas for Kids program is hoping to aid many of the families formerly served by the Angel Tree organization.

"We have traditionally adopted approximately 120 children, which is a drop in the bucket compared to what the Angel Tree program served," said Charlene Hunt, who has been involved in the program for 15 years. "We will pick up many more this year to try and close the gap, however, our resources and manpower are not what the Angel Tree had."

Christmas for Kids volunteers are working closely with Optimist Club Food Basket coordinators to try to keep the program from being abused. "In the past, we know people who have not been honest about their income or even their residency in northern Gila County," Hunt said. "Our goal is to take care of those children and the elderly who are truly in need of assistance to make the 2005 Christmas holiday a memorable one."

Registration for the Public Safety Christmas for Kids program and Optimist Food Baskets will take place Dec. 1 through Dec. 3 at 218 E. Highway 260, near Bashas'. Thursday and Friday's registration will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday's will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those seeking assistance must bring proof of residency and income. The applications are restricted to one per household.

The Public Safety Christmas for Kids program is a joint effort between the Payson Police Department, Northern Gila County Firefighters Association, Department of Public Safety and Gila County Attorney's Office. This year the Payson Parks and Recreation Department has also thrown its resources behind both the Tamales for Toys program and Christmas for Kids.

"We saw this as an opportunity to join forces with the other local government entities to make it stronger," said Bill Schwind, director of Payson Parks and Recreation.

Anyone wishing to donate toys or cash for the program can do so by contacting Hunt at (928) 474-5242, ext. 260, or Monica Savage at ext. 300. New toys may be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at either the Payson Parks and Recreation office or the Payson Fire Department on Main Street.

The Tamales for Toys program will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Payson Elks Lodge. Bring only new toys. Used, stuffed toys cannot be redistributed. The Northern Gila County Firefighters Association is hosting the event. The Mazatzal Casino and Payson Elks Lodge are the contributing sponsors. This year's tamales will be prepared by Sam Garcia and his family, former owners of Chema's restaurant.

Albert Hunt will prepare his famous beans to go along with the meal. Payson Parks and Recreation will be on hand with Santa Claus for photographs with the children.

So the work of angels can still fly with your help.

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