By Greg Russell
Something as simple as a pair of socks and a flannel shirt helped Sheila Hall realize
the importance of volunteer work. In 1991, the first year the University of Memphis
hosted the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, Hall noticed the “needs and wants” list
of a senior citizen included essential clothing items — not fancy gift requests.
“Who could not have had a personal moment of ‘thanks’ for all one's own blessings
after reading something like that?” said Hall, assistant dean of Student Affairs in
the Loewenberg School of Nursing. “Even this year, some of the Student Nurses' Association
members noticed that several senior citizens were asking for postage stamps. I know
that the holidays are mostly for kids, but I am so glad that seniors are a part of
the Salvation Army Angel Tree program as well.”
Hall estimates that more than 2,000 seniors and children have benefited since Angel
Tree first came to the U of M in 1991. The program has been featured on local news
stations several times, shedding positive light on the U of M.
“For these past 22 years, the holiday season and spirit began for me when I saw our
U of M family coming to us on Angel Tree day with their arms full of gifts and smiles
on their faces,” Hall said. “I found that my eyes blinked a lot as I tried to keep
my tears of joy under control.”
She says visiting the local Angel Tree warehouse where gifts seem to “go on and on
forever” is the perfect example of the giving nature of the Memphis community.
“Adopting an angel is like a gift to one’s self because it makes a person feel so
good,” she said.
Hall will be retiring this spring, but she said the program would continue under Brenda
Fortney and Melynda Whitwell, academic coordinators in Loewenberg. Hall said they
both have been “passionate” about the program for years.
“I know that the tradition of Angel Tree at the U of M will continue under the guidance
of the Loewenberg staff, and I can assure you that I will be dropping by next year
on Angel Tree day — not only to bring my Angel gifts — but to just hang out with my
Angel Tree family,” Hall said.