Helping Hands: Soaring From The Holiday Spirit

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Capco Steel Partners With Salvation Army To Help “Angels”

For the fortunate, Christmas is typically a time brimming with all the splendors of the season: joyful festivities, dazzling decorations, family traditions, merry music, tasty treats, piles of presents, and plenty of holiday cheer. However, there are many across the country who dread Christmas time due to unfavorable financial situations and/or living arrangements. Unfortunately, gift-less Christmas mornings have been the sad reality of those impoverished families and their children.

Thankfully, there are programs in place that can help low income families throughout the United States have brighter Christmases. One of those is The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, which was started in 1979.

According to the non-profit organization’s website, www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/brighten-the-holidays, its Angel Tree program enables The Salvation Army to “put new clothes and toys under the tree for one million children who usually have to go without Christmas gifts”.

Recipients of Angel Tree gifts are from families who have applied for Christmas assistance through The Salvation Army’s social services program. More specifically, the “angels” are from low income households, foster care, group homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Each qualifying individual is assigned a paper tag in the shape of an angel. On the angel tag is the recipient’s first name, age, gender, clothing/shoe size, and desired item. 

The angel tags are hung as ornaments on Christmas trees in businesses, churches, and other participating organizations until donors select them, purchase items listed on them, and return them with their corresponding donations.

Capco’s Angel Tree
For many donors, purchasing gifts for “angels” from an Angel Tree has become a heart-warming holiday tradition. Such is the case for Kelli Hart of San Antonio-based Capco Steel Inc., who’s family has been “adopting” angels for five years. She presented the idea of having an Angel Tree in the company’s office to Capco’s management team for the 2017 holiday season. And the owners of Capco Steel, Charles and Julie Plunkett, an altruistic couple with a soft spot for children, loved the notion. 

Hart reached out to The Salvation Army’s San Antonio chapter to coordinate an Angel Tree for Capco’s office. The company initially received 40 angel tags to place on the Christmas tree in its front office. After they were hung with care, emails describing the program were sent to Capco’s employees, suppliers, and subcontractors.

“The first 40 were adopted within a week,” recalls Hart. “We were overwhelmed with the response; we had to scramble to get more angels.” The Salvation Army was able to add 20 more tags to Capco’s Angel Tree.

Of Capco’s 60 angels, 58 were children and two were seniors.

“While there was a wide range of wants and needs, there were lots of requests for educational toys,” says Hart, “which was nice to see.”

Hart’s family chose three tags: one tag for each of her two children, who wanted to shop for angels with similar interests, and one angel tag for a senior who simply wanted warm winter clothing. Her children picked out a Build-A-Bear maker and a Hot Wheels race track for their angels of comparable ages.  

The Plunketts took two tags: Charles picked a five-year-old girl who wanted a bicycle and Julie selected a three-year-old boy who requested an educational Leap Frog toy. Clothes and shoes were purchased for their angels as well.

Charles, who enlisted the help of a fellow shopper and her young daughter when choosing his angel’s bike to ensure that he was buying an age-appropriate size and style, thoroughly enjoyed the experience and is looking forward to the 2018 giving season.

Throughout the three-week duration of its Angel Tree program, Capco Steel made three trips with a moving truck to deliver donations to The Salvation Army’s warehouse. “With 12 bicycles for children ages two to 12, we ran out of space fast,” notes Hart, who adds that, for her, it is was especially endearing to see one particularly gruff contractor drop off a make-up kit that he had purchased for the female angel he had adopted.

What’s more, before the Dec. 12th deadline, the Plunketts and their team made sure no angel would be left out. Charles shopped for the remaining angels, as did Nicholas Bergmann, senior project manager, who purchased various athletic balls and sports toys.  

Overall, the Plunketts and Hart were thrilled with the company’s contribution and the benevolence of its employees, suppliers, and subcontractors. Hart reckons that the Angel Tree program helps people remember the true purpose of the season: giving. And giving is surely sweeter when the recipients are underprivileged children and their families. “Spoiled kids don’t know the wonderment of new toys,” she says, adding that some donors who took their own children shopping used the Angel Tree program as a learning experience, explaining to them how their angels’ circumstances differ from their own. This, in turn, encouraged them to be more appreciative of their Christmas gifts and more comfortable home lives. It also fosters understanding and compassion—the makings of a charitable spirit.   

According to its website, www.salvationarmysanantonio.org/angel-tree, in San Antonio, Texas, more than 8,000 children benefit from its Angel Tree program.   

Pay It Forward “Julie and I have always been interested in helping people,” says Charles, who mentions that the couple participates in various children’s programs throughout the year at their church. Julie, who serves as a board member for a charity, states that they also sponsor a table at the annual Construct A Kid’s Christmas Gala in San Antonio, where attendees bring new toys for seats at the tables. Construct A Kid’s Christmas is a nonprofit organization that was established in 2000 by the construction industry.

While this was Capco’s first time collaborating with The Salvation Army and its Angel Tree program, it’s safe to say that it won’t be the company’s last. As a matter of fact, the Plunketts would like to “add to it” in 2018. In a press release about the program, the company states, “ … they hope to continue to develop a strong relationship, growing each year to ensure that every child is reminded of the magic of the holiday spirit.”

After witnessing a bit of the Angel Tree program’s inner workings at The Salvation Army’s warehouse, Hart is convinced that volunteering would be a great way for the company to get more involved. “So many people put so much time and thought into it,” she says, noting that there are volunteers who create the angel tags, sort the gifts, match the gifts, deliver the gifts, assemble bicycles, and more. “It would be nice to see it in action and provide assistance.”

The Plunketts agree. Actually, they are in favor of permitting Capco’s employees to volunteer during work hours. So much so that they recently distributed an updated employee handbook that encourages volunteerism by providing individuals with up to 16 hours of paid volunteer time.

“Volunteering would be great,” says Charles, “and we’d allow them to go on work time. We’re all about helping the community …”

Essentially, the Plunketts are attempting to “pay it forward” while creating a culture shift within Capco Steel. And their plan is simple: Expose Capco’s employees to philanthropy and hope it’s infectious.

Hart couldn’t be happier about the culture being cultivated at Capco. “I’m lucky to work for a larger company that still has a small business feel and to work with caring people,” she says. “Giving makes a difference. Challenge others to do the same; it creates a domino effect.”  

An unremitting ripple of goodwill is precisely what the Plunketts want to initiate. They aren’t seeking recognition, nor are they motivated by it. They give back purely for the personal satisfaction of knowing they’ve helped make a difference in the lives of others, and they are optimistic that Capco Steel’s charitable giving will become contagious.   

‘Tis Always The Season!
Perhaps Bob Hope said it best: “My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”

Indeed, we do not need to wait for the holiday to be in the spirit of giving. In particular, The Salvation Army has several year-round programs in place, operates thrift shops, and accepts donations. For more information about its opportunities to serve, visit www.salvationarmy.org.    

Erica Shatzer is the editor of Mini-Storage Messenger, Self-Storage Now!, and Self-Storage Canada.

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