News | Dec. 15, 2020

Despite pandemic, DLA finds safe way to give to children in need through Angel Tree program

By Natalie Skelton, DLA Aviation Public Affairs

Defense Logistics Agency employees on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, responded in great magnitude to this year’s Angel Tree program during the annual gift drop-off at DLA Installation Management Richmond’s Fire Department Dec. 9.

The process was different from past years, as employees were first asked for commitments prior to reaching out to the schools. The Angel Tree program would not have taken place, had it not been for the employees' initial commitments to adopt.

There are always a lot of moving parts to coordinate events such as these, and collaboration between several DLA offices and organizations helped make Angel Tree possible.

The public affairs staff spent several workdays typing donation cards that Daniel White, an information technology specialist with DLA Information Operations, loaded online for employees to adopt, as well as providing links where adopters could verify which angels were already adopted and how many angels were left.

“We all played different, yet equally important parts in order to conduct and execute Angel Tree this year in the COVID-19 environment,” said Amy Clement, chief of the DLA Aviation Public Affairs Office. “It started with the DLA Aviation Public Affairs and Safety Offices working with the DLA Installation Management Richmond’s Fire Department. Through teamwork we were able to find a safe way to hold gift drop off. DLA Information Operations was also instrumental in creating a way for employees to adopt angels virtually through our intranet.”

Clement said the initial concern was for the safety of all DSCR personnel, as well as the safety of the children receiving the gifts and stressed her gratitude to the fire department for their support over the years.

“For several years now, our DLA Fire Department on DSCR has gone above and beyond in helping with Angel Tree. Not only do they host a drive-through drop off at the fire station, but they also volunteer their time and manpower to unload hundreds of packages.” Clement said.

This year, in response to COVID-19, employees remained in their cars.

“It was all of the [firefighters] from the fire department who unloaded and toted every gift. When the schools arrived to pick up gifts, these guys then loaded them all up for them so school personnel could remain safe in their vehicles,” she said. “And they helped with such a positive attitude – not only do they help keep our installation safe, but they truly are Santa’s helpers and show through their kindness and dedication to the program what the true spirit of Christmas is about.”

The fire department used an ionization sprayer which decontaminates large or small areas and equipment, to spray the gifts prior to handing them off to school officials.

“Fire and emergency services look forward to adopting angels and hosting the event each year at the fire station. This year was a bit unique based on the global pandemic, but we still enjoyed being a part of this wonderful program. Even though we all had masks on I knew that everyone was smiling from ear-to-ear as we unloaded so many gifts for the children,” said Fire Chief Don Rodgers, Fire and Emergency Branch, Security and Emergency Services Division, DLA Installation Management Richmond. “With the pandemic and the financial challenges that have accompanied it, we knew we needed to make sure we stepped up and helped the public affairs team and the installation make this happen. We were so very impressed with the DSCR employees’ generosity and kindness to help ensure so many children have a great Christmas holiday during these tough times. We are already looking forward to next year’s event.”        

And with that, Christmas was saved for 128 students from Bellwood, Bensley and Reid Elementary Schools and Meadowbrook High School.

A MESSAGE FROM THE SCHOOLS:

We can't thank you enough for adopting our students! We know that they will truly appreciate these wonderful gifts! Thanks again and Happy Holidays!

-    Marcie R. Terry, principal, Meadowbrook High School

Today I had the wonderful opportunity of picking up Angel Tree gifts for our students at Meadowbrook High School! Mrs. Skelton thank you for your hard work, dedication and answering all the phone calls from me. I am excited about working with you next year.

-     Cecelia Greenwood, Communities In Schools site coordinator, Meadowbrook High School

O M G!!!! You guys outdid yourselves in a HUGE way this year. I couldn't believe how many bags there were yesterday. Our families picked up last night and there were a lot of HAPPY TEARS.

-     Elizabeth Stowers, Communities In Schools site coordinator, Bellwood Elementary School

The employees that help with the Angel Tree at Bensley are OUR angels and they will never know the difference they are making in these kids’ lives!! After the holidays when they come to school in their new clothes and shoes you can see the joy in their faces.  It warms my heart and the rest of my Bensley family when we get to see them filled with hope and joy from having a wonderful Christmas surprise! 

-     Nicole Greer, first grade teacher, Bensley Elementary School 

I'll be honest, I was not expecting the Angel Tree program to continue this year. And the thought wasn't accompanied by disappointment for the presents the kids would miss out on. Rather, sadness. Utter sadness with how quickly so many facets of lives had changed; including an annual event that I know your DLA colleagues look forward to. I know this time of year; shopping for little ones whom they have never, and likely will never meet, brings complete joy to them. So, when I heard that the sponsors still wanted to participate, well, you can imagine my excitement. I believe I told Natalie my jaw was still on the floor hours after hearing the news! All this to say, I (and I feel confident to speak on behalf of the parents) genuinely believe that the DLA sponsors are the true angels. I don't believe a thank you will ever be enough. But I know that's not the reason you all work so hard to make this truly special opportunity happen.

-     Kathryn Haynes, counselor, G.H. Reid Elementary School