As soon as the holiday season rolls around, so does the Christmas chatter, talk of Santa and presents. Teachers have children write Santa letters telling him what they would like him to bring them for Christmas.
Kids are often asked questions like, "What did you ask Santa for?" or "Have you been naughty or nice?" So what is a parent who can't afford Christmas presents supposed to tell their child when they come home from school excited about the letter they wrote to Santa telling him what they wanted him to bring for Christmas?
While it is sad to think this happens, the reality is, it does, to children all over the world. No one could possibly expect someone to buy presents for all of the children who do without. But, two Sharp County women have taken it upon themselves to uphold a program designed to buy presents for children who otherwise would do without.
Peggy Goodwin and Alta Carroll are not just two women, they are a mother-daughter team who work together to touch people's lives.
Goodwin started working for Sharp County Department of Human Services as a case worker in 2001. But, this was not just the year Goodwin became a Sharp County case worker, it was the year she took over the Christmas help program known as the Angel Tree and started touching people's lives.
|While Goodwin said she can tell when someone is truly touched by what she and her mother have done for them, she feels equally blessed for having been able to reach out and do for someone in need.|
After Goodwin's first year taking over the Angel Tree program, she realized not only how much work it was but that the program had room for improvement and expansion. After taking into consideration all of her work hours plus the hours she was putting into the Angel Tree program, Goodwin called upon her mother to help her with the program for 2002.
|"Peggy called me and asked if I could help her that year," Carroll said. "And here I am, I never stopped," she laughed. Goodwin and Carroll have a very organized system that works well for them. "She (Peggy) is very organized -- she gets that from me," Carroll said as Goodwin pulled out her folder full of forms that were neatly attached to a sheet that was headed with a business name and followed with a list of names.|
Goodwin explained that DHS is not directly involved with the program anymore. "All of the money donated had to go through Little Rock and it was just too much of a hassle trying to get things done," Goodwin explained.
|She said when DHS ran the program, it was their policy that all funds have to go through the Little Rock department and any money that needed to be spent had to be requested, approved and then waited on. Goodwin said this process was too time consuming and with the expanding case load the DHS offices have, it was difficult for the office to find the workers and the time to put the appropriate attention into the program.|
DHS still helps with the application process for the Angel Tree recipients. Goodwin said every year, usually after Halloween, the DHS office begins handing out and receiving back the applications. The applications are very unevasive, asking just a few questions to verify who the family is and the names, ages, sizes and wish list of each child in the home.
After each application is turned back into DHS, there is a deadline each year, Goodwin or one of the other DHS office workers verify the families who have requested assistance. Goodwin said it is usual policy that the applicant is in the DHS system and is receiving assistance. But, Goodwin said they try very hard not to leave anyone out that truly needs help, so if they have an applicant who is not in their system, she will do some research.
Once the applications are verified, the information provided about the children's age, size and wish list is given to individuals who want to help and purchase gifts. As Christmas gets closer, many businesses put up a Christmas tree and request names, which come from the applications Goodwin has collected, to put on their tree for customers and employees to buy for.
Ash Flat Walmart and FNBC have put an Angel Tree up at their facilities every year. Once the gifts are purchased for the name taken, the person who chose the name takes the gifts they purchase back to the business where they took the name from.
The gifts are collected by Goodwin and Carroll and they then go through and see which children have not yet been bought for. After seeing how many children still need presents, they, usually accompanied by some volunteers, head to Walmart and buy the remaining gifts.
Goodwin said she is very careful to make sure that if the children live in the same household, they get the same amount of gifts. "I never want one child to get more than the other," Goodwin said.
After all the presents are collected and purchased, they schedule a wrapping party, where several volunteers get together and wrap all of the presents. The parents are then called to pick up the presents.
Although this seems like a program that only lasts from October through December, the Angel Tree program actually takes effort year around. Carroll never stops; she arranges several fundraisers throughout the year to help earn enough money for the program to be successful at Christmas time. "I don't know what I'd do without her," Goodwin said. "She is great."
There is an account set up for the program at FNBC. Anyone who would like to make donations can do so at the bank or to one of the two women. Carroll said she sends out letters all year long asking for donations.
"We are truly blessed to have the opportunity to touch these people's lives," Goodwin said. "You can see it in their face when they are truly appreciative of what we are doing."