Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Angel tree donors bless Veteran families in need
Cathy Adkins, spouse of U.S. Army Veteran Thomas Adkins, Sr., wipes tears from her eyes Dec. 13 as she marvels at the two boxes overflowing with holiday gifts for her children. The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Voluntary Service office, where she stands, is packed to the ceiling with colorful gift bags, toys, clothing and brightly wrapped presents intended for other children in need.
The gifts were all donated by VA employees, Veteran service organizations, local churches and community groups through Voluntary Service’s Angel Tree program, which exists to support low-income Veteran families.
“I can’t even tell you how much of a blessing this is to our family,” she said. “When you’re surviving off one small check per month, everything is stretched. During the holidays, it can be hard, especially so on the children.”
The Adkins’, who have eight children total, were referred to the program by their VA social worker based on their financial need. The couple received Angel Tree donations for their four youngest children.
Voluntary Service Specialist Candy Anderson explained that 178 kids, ranging in age from newborn to 18, were identified this year as needing support during the holiday season.
“Our community and employees are so good to us,” said Anderson. “We all understand that the true value of Christmas is giving. And it means so much that we can be part of a positive experience in these kids’ lives.”
“My heart is lifted by the support we’ve had come our way in the last few months,” she said. “I’m so thankful that, with this VA’s help, my children are able to still believe in the spirit of Christmas.”
According to Anderson, more than $6,500 worth of gifts were collected during this year’s campaign. Items were donated, wrapped or unwrapped, and distributed to the families through their referring social worker about a week in advance of Christmas, ensuring every child had a gift to open on Christmas morning.
“It’s just as exciting for us as it is for them, seeing the gifts as they’re unwrapped under the tree,” Adkins said. “I always say that we are rich in family but, this year, we also feel so rich in blessings.”