Friday was Angel Tree Day at the Pine Bluff Salvation Army as hundreds of families and senior citizens lined up to get the gifts many could have otherwise not afforded.
“We had great response,” Salvation Army Lt. Stephanie Hargis said as she worked to check in people, some of whom arrived before the 8 a.m. start and stood in line until it was their turn.
“We had 10 families every 15 minutes,” Hargis said. “Our women’s auxiliary, the Pine Bluff Fire Department, Med Express and others were there to help us take the gifts out to people’s cars.”
Hargis said that while the Salvation Army had to take care of angel Tree wishes for 80 families, the generosity of the community allowed them to fill the wishes of all 433 families who had signed up for the annual program.
“We couldn’t have done it without the support of the community,” she said. “They really stepped up and make sure the Angels got adopted. There was just an outpouring of love from the community and it was all very exciting.”
Before the families received their gifts, Hargis’s husband, Lt. Bradley Hargis, “shared the gospel with them and 13 people accepted Christ as their savior,” Stephanie Hargis said.
In addition to the Angel Tree gifts, each family received a certificate they could take to Brookshire’s on Hazel Street and receive a food basket.
“This is a big help,” Remesha Grady said as she waited for her name to be called.
Grady has five children, a daughter 11 and two sets of twin boys, ages 12 and 6.
“They asked for everything,” she said. “A remote control car, games for their Playstation, a television, a bike, a doll house and clothes.”
Bradley Hargis said that the people of Pine Bluff have been “wonderful,” both in their support for the angel Tree program and their volunteerism in ringing the bells at the Army’s Red Kettle campaign.
“Pine Bluff has got an incredible group of volunteers,” he said. “Our kettle volunteers actually out numbered the number of volunteers in Little Rock, Fayetteville, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Oklahoma City. This is a city of volunteers and together, we made it work.
“Through individual and corporate sponsors, the Angels were picked up quickly and the people took care of the gifts.”
Also waiting her turn for the gifts Friday was Kimberly Thornton, who has three children, two girls and a boy.
“This means a lot to me and I am so thankful,” she said.
Thornton said her kids asked for a phone, laptop computer and “everything else. Stuff that I couldn’t afford.”
While the Angel Tree program is over, the Red Kettle campaign continues until noon on Christmas Eve, and Bradley Hargis said that currently, it has raised about $90,000.
“Our goal this year is $100,000, so we still need about $10,000,” he said. “We are going to be awfully close by the time we’re through.”