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Angel Tree at County Fair Mall a labour of love for long-time volunteers

Volunteers Mike and Lynda Carter of Canning have been looking after the Angel Tree at the County Fair Mall for many years. Capt. Kelly Fifield of the Kentville Salvation Army, right, said the organization is grateful for the support.
Volunteers Mike and Lynda Carter of Canning have been looking after the Angel Tree at the County Fair Mall for many years. Capt. Kelly Fifield of the Kentville Salvation Army, right, said the organization is grateful for the support. - Kirk Starratt

NEW MINAS, NS - They’ve been giving of themselves every year for more than a decade to help ensure that there are toys under the tree for Annapolis Valley children in need at Christmas time.

Mike and Lynda Carter of Canning have been managing the Angel Tree at the County Fair Mall for at least 12 years. This year’s initiative was launched on Dec. 8 and the tree will stay up until Dec. 22.

The Carter’s consider it their annual Christmas project, something they hold near and dear to their hearts. There are approximately 500 children who will receive toys and presents through the Kentville Salvation Army this Christmas. Mike said they’re collecting as many toys as they can to support these efforts.

The tree starts out covered with paper bells that specify a boy or girl of a given age range and provides some gift suggestions, such as a toy or clothing. A donor will take a bell; go shopping for an appropriate gift and place it unwrapped under the tree. The donor then puts his or her name on a paper angel that goes on the tree. The Carter’s said the tree is always decorated to the top by the time the campaign finishes.

Mike first got involved with the Angel Tree as a board member with Family and Children’s Services. After the organization discontinued its involvement, the Carter’s approached the Salvation Army about distributing the toys and other gifts collected through the initiative.

Mike said his favourite thing about it is getting to meet so many people and hearing their stories. Many donors were helped in the past and want to give back or have other important reasons for giving.

“We had one fellow come in one afternoon and he had lost his daughter, nine years old,” Mike said. “Every year he looks for somewhere to give. He gave us $300 that day in memory of his daughter.”

Lynda said parents would often involve their kids, making giving a family tradition. The experience can help illustrate that there are others in the community who don’t have a lot at Christmas time.

“It’s teaching them and as they grow up, they’ll do it with their own children no doubt,” Lynda said.

She said other people would donate gifts and put the name of a loved one on the paper angel and vice versa instead of exchanging presents with each other. The Carters have also seen children bring in toys and money they get for their birthdays to donate.

The Carter’s said there are several groups and organizations that are always supportive, including the New Minas Scotiabank, the Department of Natural Resources in Kentville, Michelin and others.

The Angel Tree is donated by Wood’s Christmas Trees, who have a lot set up by the Milne Court Petro Canada in New Minas. County Fair Mall staff members set up the tree. If the Carter’s aren’t able to be there, donors can leave gifts at the lotto booth just outside the NSLC store.

Grateful for support

Capt. Kelly Fifield of the Kentville Salvation Army said she couldn’t put into words how grateful they are to all the Angel Tree donors and to the Carter’s for giving of their time and themselves.

“We need these toys in order to reach out to the families and having that central location where people can drop off is key,” she said.

Fifield said the need is great. They don’t have a lot of toys left in storage after last Christmas so each and every donation is greatly appreciated. The gifts will be needed to stock a toy store set up at the community church in Kentville on Dec. 20 and 21. The store affords parents in need the dignity of choosing which toy their child will receive.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

Click here for a story on a recent toy drive for the Kentville Salvation Army held in memory of Jacob Stern.

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