Youth, elder ‘Angel’ efforts underway
The Cherokee Nation’s Elder Angel program is underway at the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. Each year, people can select anonymous elders in the project and buy gifts for them. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Christmas gifts for Cherokee elders pile up at the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
In this 2013 photo, a group of women gather around the Cherokee Nation’s Angel Project tree to pick angels for whom they can buy gifts. The angels represent needy children. ARCHIVE
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation is seeking charitable people with the “Christmas Spirit” for a pair of donation-dependent projects that provide gifts to needy children and the elderly.
Both the Angel Project for youth and Elder Angel program are underway.
The Angel Project was established to provide Christmas gifts to low-income Native children up to 16 years of age living within the CN’s jurisdiction. Following an application process each fall, angels representing the youth are placed on Christmas trees. Gift-giving community members are then asked to “adopt” the angels and fulfill wish lists.
“So far this year we have about 1,300 angels,” Misty Blunt, Indian Child Welfare prevention manager, said Oct. 23. “Last year we did around 1,700 total.”
Tree locations include the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex, hospitals, medical clinics and Walmarts. Angels are placed on the complex tree Nov. 19 to kick off the event.
“From there, we’re rolling,” Blunt said. “People start taking them and gifts start coming back. (Cherokee Nation Businesses) takes a chunk. (W.W. Hastings Hospital) takes a big group. The general public takes a lot of the angels. We’ve had a lot of support.”
When it comes to gifts, “We want to purchase their needs first, then their wants,” Blunt said. “Needs” can include bedding, blankets, socks, underwear, winter clothing and hygiene products. The long list of “wants,” Blunt said, tend to follow trends.
“A bike is always big, headphones and ear buds because the kiddos all like electronics these days, and super heroes,” she said. “I would average it out as $60 an angel, but we have had angels ask for a PlayStation and they’ve gotten it.”
No child on the tree goes without for the holidays, Blunt said.
“The angels that don’t get picked up off of the trees, we have volunteers that sign up and we do the shopping for those,” she said. “We generally end up shopping for around maybe 300-500 angels. So every child does get something.”
Buyers are asked to return gifts by Dec. 6. Gifts are handed out beginning Dec. 9 in Cherokee communities.
While the sign-up deadline for “angels” has passed, the office will take emergency applications, Blunt said. For information, call 918-458-6900 or visit icw.cherokee.org.
The CN is also accepting Elder Angel adoptions at the Tribal Complex and Human Service field offices.
To qualify for gifts, elders must be at least 60 years old, a CN citizen or spouse of a CN citizen and live within the CN jurisdiction.
“We don’t have an income guideline, but it is an indigent program for people who are not going to get a gift otherwise,” program coordinator Crystal Thomas said. “Sometimes they don’t have family or if they do have family, the family is too poor to buy gifts. We often have people that just cry when they get their gifts. They’re just so happy because otherwise, they wouldn’t get anything.”
This year’s list was nearing 200.
“We put them on a little angel slip, put all their information on the back and hang it up on the wall,” Thomas said. “People come down and adopt them, then bring the gifts back. We’ve already had over 100 of them adopted. What’s left over we will shop for.”
The top requests are socks and underwear, Thomas said.
“A lot of the ladies request towels and bedding,” she added.
Nov. 5 is the deadline for the gifts, which will be delivered in mid-November.
“We ask that they be returned wrapped and numbered with the angel’s number,” Thomas said. “That helps us to sort them out.”
Already, gifts are piling up at the complex.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Thomas, an employee who helped start the program seven years ago. “I just saw there was people in the communities that didn’t get gifts that were poor. I thought we needed to do something for them.”
For more information, call 918-453-5627.