By Greg Russell
For the past 20 years, Sheila Hall and her Loewenberg School of Nursing associates
have toiled hundreds of hours to ensure a better holiday season for the less fortunate.
This fall, she is asking for your help.
Hall has coordinated the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program since its inception on
the University campus in the early 1990s. She estimates 2,000 children and elderly
have been able to enjoy the holidays because of the generosity of those on campus.
Only problem, the economy has taken its toll on the program.
“We generally have had well over 100 angels adopted every year from the beginning,
and many times had considerably more than 100,” said Hall, Loewenberg School of Nursing
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. “The economy has presented challenges in the last
few years, and we have dropped below 100 for several years.”
Hall said the Salvation Army told her “not to be discouraged because the economy has
But the difficult economy has made it even tougher for those who already have little
to make ends meet. Imagine being a child and having no gifts under the holiday tree,
or an elderly person in a nursing home who has no loved ones to provide them with
gifts. Knowing that others care can lessen the holiday blues that needy children and
elderly endure each year.
The University community has come through in recent years, but can make an even more
meaningful impact this fall.
With the 20th anniversary of the program, Hall is hoping more U of M departments and individuals
take part, thus ensuring more kids and elderly will have gifts during the holidays.
The U of M has been hosting the Salvation Army Angel Tree program for 20 years. With
the slumping economy, the number of adopted Angels is down, but coordinator Sheila
Hall is hoping the on-campus Angel Tree program’s 20th anniversary this fall will
spur more departments and individuals to take part. Above, student Deidra Payne, Hall,
student Britnee Gillum and Loewenberg School of Nursing office associate Anna Myers
display gifts donated last fall. (photo by Lindsey Lissau)
It is easy to help.
Angel Adoption order forms are being sent out campus-wide to departments and to those
who adopted last year. A form is also available here. The deadline for an individual or department to sign up is Oct. 11. Those participating
have a choice of adopting a child or senior citizen and male or female.
Hall said the needy aren’t the only ones who benefit.
“The most shocking thing to me that first year was how faculty, staff and students
all thanked us when they brought gifts to us on the collection day. We couldn’t understand
why they were thanking us. They were the ones who were adopting the angels and making
the program successful. It finally occurred to us that they were thanking us for the
experience that they felt we had provided them. They felt that they had received the
greatest gift of all. Obviously, it is true — it is a greater blessing to give than
Hall said the program allows participants a way to touch a life in a personal way.
“You realize when you receive your Angel Tree tag with the information about that
child or senior citizen that you are now responsible for helping this human being
in a very special way. It immediately becomes personal,” she said.
“We are very proud of the support we have continued to receive from the U of M family.
Most offices that participate today are those who were with us that first year. They
continue to come with smiling faces and hearts full of love for those less fortunate.
Hall said she became interested in introducing the program to the U of M campus after
her brother adopted an angel from the Salvation Army Angel Tree at a local shopping
mall. She asked the Student Nurses Association to sponsor the on-campus program.
“My real goal was not only to help folks who needed help, but also to make the holiday
season more meaningful for those in the U of M family who wanted to participate,”
Hall said. “I had hoped that offices would come together as a group and adopt Angels
instead of buying a lot of gifts for each other which nobody really needed. In the
process, they would be drawn closer together in their offices by doing something for
others, and we would become even stronger as a campus community. To my surprise, it
worked! So many people told us how they got to know those in their office better and
had a great time.”
Hall said the program would never have continued to prosper “without supportive staff
in the Loewenberg School of Nursing. Their support over the years and eagerness to
help have made it all possible from an organizational perspective.
“Nothing gives me the holiday spirit like seeing those U of M faculty and staff bring
gifts to us on Angel Tree day,” Hall said. “Heartfelt thanks to anyone who has ever
participated in Angel Tree for the past 20 years. You have touched so many lives.”