This is the time of the year when there is a great amount of joy and excitement with the celebration of Christmas. This is true for many families and many individuals. It is also a time of sadness and depression for many others, especially for those who are lonely. Among those who may be left out of receiving any gifts are teenagers and senior citizens.
There is a special program in our community that helps to see that these two groups are not left out and that they do receive a gift -- an indication that others are remembering them. Angels are looking after these individuals and assisting to make a better Christmas for those who would have been left out. Terri Meyers and Jason Caspill are heading up this special endeavor, which is making a difference.
Terri says the Teen Angel program was started about nine years ago. It was brought to her attention that there was no national organization that helped families with children 3 to 18 years of age. According to Terri the Toys for Tots is a wonderful program that helps children newborn to 12, however there was nothing for older teens. This resulted in a new idea being born.
The first year there were approximately 40 to 50 teens. Last year the program reached 100 teens.
Terri said, "The reason why I think it is so important for these teens to receive gifts is because it shows that someone truly cares for them, a lot of these teens have jobs, but that money goes to help support the family. If they can have a trendy purse, shirt or perfume or cologne they will feel like they fit in with other teens and that will help their self-esteem.
The way the program works is that they go through Community Outreach to sign-up for the program. Then Community Outreach does the screening to ensure that these teens are not receiving help from anyone else. Sometimes churches, sororities, service organizations or individual families will also get names from Community Outreach.
It is unfortunate, but there are people that try to abuse the system, and by working with Community Outreach, the Angel program can eliminate the abusers and they know that the teens they are serving are in need.
Names are collected from Community Outreach. A Teen Angel card with gift suggestion, age and other information is completed. The address or last name of the child is not given out to protect confidentiality. At that point they start advertising that they are ready to begin the program. The window to pick up the adoption envelopes and get them back to Terri and Jason is short -- it began Nov. 30 and they need to be returned to them by Dec. 9, the date when this column is published.
It was my intention to use this as a subject last week, but I was not able to get this column written last week, due to other conflicts.
For the adoption they are asking that a minimum of $20 be spent and the gift is brought back in a gift bag. That way all gifts are packaged and ready to give.
Monetary contributions are accepted. As in past years not all the angels have been adopted. In that case Jason and Terri will shop and purchase gifts for all of the angels not adopted. Last year they had to buy for 30 angels. One year enough cash donations were received that an entertainment package was purchased for each teen. The package included a $5 Pizza Hut coupon, movie ticket coupon, bowling game/shoes and a burger/fries/drink coupon. Terri considers that was a great year.
The gifts are picked up by parents or guardians during the Community Outreach food pantry when other groups are there too -- Toys for Tots and the Nevada High School Student Council Coat Drive. She describes this event as being "awesome."
Terri said, "We have felt a need to serve the senior population (over 65) so this year we are starting a Senior Angel Program. This is for people over 65, who live on their own and have limited income. The program is basically the same as the Teen Angel only Jay and I will deliver these gifts to the senior's home. I am really excited about this. I can NOT wait to personally deliver these gifts!"
These two programs, Teen Angels and Senior Angels will benefit not only those who receive the gifts, but also those making the gifts possible. Anyone involved with the program will also have a more meaningful Christmas.
"These two programs truly enrich and bless our lives," Terri said. "This has grown into a family tradition in many families. My mother and grandmother do not exchange gifts with me -- they adopt teens. Plus we have many families that repeat adoption every year. It truly is grander to give than to receive -- I love this time of the year -- it's what Christmas is all about -- giving from the heart! We feel fortunate to be able to do this small step for our community."
From an idea that Terri had approximately nine years ago, this has developed into an important Christmas event in our community. This is a demonstration of how one person can make a difference.
For the leadership Terri Meyers and Jason Claspill is giving to the Angel program they are worthy of a bouquet of four leaf clovers.
For additional information call Terri or Jason at (417) 667-9510 or Terri at home at (417) 667-5229.