Volunteers share Christmas cheer
Angel Tree distribution pivots to continue serving area families
By Abigail Allen
Volunteers from Shepherd’s Storehouse and Midway Church did angelic work on Monday morning.
As families served by Shepherd’s Storehouse drove up, the volunteers loaded up the vehicles with bags of Christmas presents.
“There’s not enough room at Shepherd’s Storehouse right now with everything because of the pandemic,” said Tona VanHook, one of the coordinators of this year’s program. “There’s so much extra food there, trying to make sure and give everyone extra food that comes there.
“Even previously there was very little room there in the back to facilitate this, so it was really hard before, but it wasn’t going to be able to happen this year if we didn’t find another place.”
Luther Slay, the executive director of Shepherd’s Storehouse, works with the families who have established need with the nonprofit to fill out the paperwork in the fall to participate in the angel tree event.
“Pilot Point is a wonderful community,” VanHook said. “I grew up here, and they always take care of everybody here, so it’s amazing to participate.”
The daughter of G.A. Moore, who became the pastor of Mustang Baptist Church in his retirement from education and coaching, VanHook talked about growing up with Slay as a close family friend.
“Luther was my preacher growing up,” she said. “He’s like a second dad to me, so I love helping.”
The privacy of each family is protected. Volunteers grab numbered bags containing all of the presents for that particular child. This year, each bag was labeled, too, to indicate how many bags that family had. For a family of three children, the first bag showed it was bag one of three.
Only in the case of a parent not having their numbered ticket did the volunteers need to verify the pickup by name.
Inside each bag, families will find fun items and necessities.
“We try to make sure everybody gets a coat and a blanket,” VanHook said.
Linda Navarre, who has managed the program for two decades and first got involved in 1993, has been passing the torch to VanHook and Leigh Ann Hill.
Hill was unable to attend the distribution because of a family member’s illness.
“It’s very special,” Navarre said. “It’s been a program that’s been near and dear to my heart for over 20 years.”
Although food need is up dramatically this year, she said, the need for angel tree gifts was roughly the same.
Volunteer Annette Callahan helped VanHook and Navarre manage the distribution in Hill’s absence.
“It just blesses my heart to be able to see how many people have blessed other people and to just realize that people really do care about other people,” Callahan said.
Midway Lead Pastor John Theisen said he was grateful for the chance to support the mission of the Shepherd’s Storehouse by giving the nonprofit a space for the program this year.
“The whole year has been about pivot, change and adjust and do what you need to,” he said.