Coming around full circle

  • Published
  • By Rossi D. Pedroza-Bertrand
  • 940th Air Refueling Wing

A tree went up and tags went on, but without the customary ornaments. And why not? Because this is an Angel Tree, and it’s glistening inside the 940th Maintenance Group building with big blue bows and colorful tags each with a child’s name on it with the simple wish for a toy.

Master Sgt. Eileen Safford, training manager, 940 MXG, gave a brief history about Angel Tree. “The Angels Trees have been around for a long time. It is a spin-off of the United States Marine Corps charity Toys for Tots. Somebody had come up with an idea to highlight foster children. It was done in the past through Yuba-Sutter County with the welfare department placing kids in foster care, and in children’s homes specifically and putting a child to a present,” said Safford.  “These children have actually picked these gifts on their wish list.”

Angel Tree was the creation of The Salvation Army in 1979. Majors Charles and Shirley White worked together with a shopping mall in Lynchburg, Virginia. They provided clothing and toys for children at Christmastime through donations. Innovatively, they put the cards on a Christmas tree inside the mall to let the shoppers select children they felt they could help.

MSgt. Safford and Ms. Natalie Fiore, technical order distribution officer, 940 MXG, worked together as a team and they both split the cost of the tree. “We just wanted to bring some holiday cheer to the squadron here, especially with everything going on like the pandemic,” said Fiore “We wanted to do something positive, too, that would affect our community and also reach out to the foster care families in Yuba City.”

Children’s Hope Foster Family Agency is another reason the Angel Trees are important.

Safford explains, “The Children’s Hope Foster Family Agency is mission driven through finding homes and matching families to children in the communities of Gridley, Yuba City, Roseville and pretty much up and down California. They are a 501 (c) (3) foundation (which is a tax-exempt organization identified under the Internal Revenue Service) and they exist off of donations,” said Safford.  “And as a former foster kid in the system for 19 years, I have seen it firsthand what foster care can do. The children’s home takes it a step further. They match the child with the parent.”

Fiore mentioned the squadron was fortunate to get 30 foster children to sponsor this season when she contacted the agency. Apparently, the tags that are hung on the Angel Trees are in high demand.

“So far 13 out of the 30 tags on the tree have been chosen in over just one work day. We are really happy about that.  If anybody would like to stop by and grab a tag….just return the unwrapped gift before December 4th or Saturday on the 5th for the UTA,” Fiore commented.  “The gifts are to be returned back to Dock Six. There are instruction printed on the back of the tags as well as the date to bring the gifts in unwrapped.”

Safford, who for the last two years has been the national spokesperson for CHFC and a voice for the children as well, stated there are an additional 500 families in the Children’s Hope Foster Care system. “The children’s home organization takes donations all year long. It’s not just at Christmas. If anybody wants to get involved just reach out and ask,” Safford said. “We can direct (inquiries) to the proper offices. Go online to Children’s Hope and this will put you on the footprint of the website.”

“All of the children whose names appear on the cards hanging from the tree are in foster care and currently there are 10 families on Beale Air Force Base who are fostering children in the foster care program,” said Safford.  “So it’s kind of cool. It’s full circle.”