FORT MYERS, Fla. — Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salvation Army is looking to give Christmas to even more boys and girls across Southwest Florida their annual Angel Tree program.
Monday, white printed squares and bags of gifts lined the inside of their warehouse in Fort Myers.
“ The white squares represent each family. On those white squares there’s letters that represent each child in the family," said Maj. Charlotte Gargis, with the Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry, and Glades counties.
It means Angel Tree is in full swing in hopes to give Christmas to 3,000 local boys and girls.
She says they've added an extra 200 angels on top of that due to the impacts of the coronavirus this year.
“Four to 11-year-olds is the largest age group of children we have, so we're looking for boys and girls toys, educational gifts, electronic gifts," said Maj. Charlotte.
The program allows parents to sign up for help with Santa's list by supplying their kid's wants and needs on a Christmas angel.
The angels decorate trees at participating businesses around town for people to take and return with gifts off their Christmas list.
“Last year, when I received an email of one of the letters from a mother explaining what it meant to her, it just brought tears to our eyes. I get chills still thinking about it because it's little things we can do to help each other out," said Jenny Borst, with Love Boat Ice Cream, an Angel Tree sponsor.
It's a feeling that single mothers, like Carrie Radovan, know well.
She said she was in similar shows a couple years ago in 2018.
"It just hurts to know that at the time where I was struggling, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t buy them the simple things that they wanted, like little cars and toys," said Radovan.
That’s when she found out about the Salvation Army and a special tree, who helped her two very excited, little boys on Christmas.
"To have Angel Tree want to help families like mine, it really did help with that burden. Especially, on the day of Christmas to see them open those presents and know that they got what was on their list," said Radovan.
As for this year, she says the season of giving is needed now more than ever.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs, so I would imagine that the hardest part right now would be their bills and their rent," said Radovan.
Due to the highly contagious virus, the Salvation Army says donations don't look as they have in previous years.
They have until Friday, Dec. 4, to find gifts for nearly 500 forgotten angels.
"Yes, it is a daunting task, but we have done this every year. It’s just a different kind of year," said Maj. Charlotte.
"Being able to see them open the things that they wanted was amazing," said Radovan.
A year that won't stop the Salvation Army from tackling each list and checking it twice because when you give to an angel, each gift is a Christmas miracle.
The Salvation Army is still accepting gifts throughout the week until Friday.
For those interested in volunteering, click here.
Donors can also still purchase items at Walmart and have them sent directly to the Angel Tree Warehouse by clicking here.