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Volunteer ‘angels’ make holidays special for Hill’s families

Volunteers sort Angel Tree wrapped gifts on pews inside the base chapel.

Volunteers organize Angel Tree gifts at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 9, 2020. Hill's Angel Tree program provided gifts for 127 families and 266 children this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Volunteers sort Angel Tree wrapped gifts on pews inside the base chapel.

Airman Ahren Harris sorts Angel Tree gifts at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 9, 2020. Hill's Angel Tree program provided gifts for 127 families and 266 children this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Volunteers sort Angel Tree wrapped gifts on pews inside the base chapel.

Airman Ahren Harris (left) and Staff Sgt. Christina Foster organize Angel Tree gifts at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 9, 2020. Hill's Angel Tree program provided gifts for 127 families and 266 children this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Volunteers sort Angel Tree wrapped gifts on pews inside the base chapel.

Lauren Barron and 2nd Lt. Graeme Clark organize Angel Tree gifts at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 9, 2020. Hill's Angel Tree program provided gifts for 127 families and 266 children this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Volunteers sort Angel Tree wrapped gifts on pews inside the base chapel.

Airman 1st Class Shakayle Ellis (left) and Airman 1st Class Henrick Sales bag Angel Tree gifts at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 9, 2020. Hill's Angel Tree program provided gifts for 127 families and 266 children this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Christmas is just around the corner and volunteers at Hill Air Force Base are working hard to ensure the children of its military families will have a memorable holiday season.

The Angel Tree program provides clothing and toys for children through donations.

Each year, first sergeants nominate military families who need assistance. Names are then placed on an Angel Tree tag at the base chapel with the children’s ages, clothing sizes, and Christmas gift wish lists.

Team Hill members wanting to contribute take a tag from the tree, and purchase and wrap suggested gifts for volunteers to distribute to the families.

Volunteer Angel Tree coordinator Geri Carrier has supported the base’s Angel Tree program since 2008, said the program has run successfully for more than 20 years.

This year, a total of 632 Angel Tree tags were generated, providing gifts to 127 families and 266 children.

“I consider the Angel Tree program a ‘pay it forward program,’’’ Carrier said. “It’s not charity. I expect the Airmen we are helping today will be able to take a tag off the tree in a few years to help another family.”

The program also gets donations outside of the Angel Tree tags. This year, the program received an additional 50 commissary and exchange gift cards to help families during the holidays.

Carrier said it “was a very strange year” for the Angel Tree program because of COVID-19.

Volunteers usually gather in groups to do certain projects for the program such as write out tags and wraps gifts. This year, due to the pandemic, they weren’t able to gather in large groups.

Instead, Carrier wrote out all the tags herself and relied heavily on the chapel staff for tasks such as wrapping boxes of diapers for some of the families. In addition, only a limited number of volunteers were allowed in the chapel to sort gifts for distribution.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Erik Tisher, 75th Air Base Wing chaplain, said he appreciated Carrier and the generous spirit of Team Hill.

“2020 has been a particularly difficult year for our more junior military members and their families, as many depend upon two incomes to make ends meet,” Tisher said. “As a result, demand for Angel Tree was higher this year than it was in previous years. Thankfully, our community came through in a big way.”

While the Angel Tree happens annually and there is great generosity at the base, Carrier said not everyone is aware of the program. She encouraged people to mark their calendars now to come pick up a tag from the tree next year.