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Gifts growing on trees

Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2000

Times were hard for Michelle Rosenblad growing up in Juneau, so she didn't expect much for Christmas.

"I was happy to get the basics, like clothes," said Rosenblad, 18, Wednesday afternoon while checking out the Salvation Army Angel Tree at the Nugget Mall. "I wish they had something like this when I was younger. It would've been nice to know that someone out there cared enough to help me out."

Hours earlier a young mother filled out an application at the Salvation Army office on Willoughby Street. The woman had just finished paying bills and realized she only had $6 left.

Like Rosenblad, the woman was only concerned about the basics : a Christmas dinner and winter boots for her 11-year-old daughter.

"This program is a Godsend," she said. "I heard on the radio that this was the last day to apply, so I rushed over here."

Nearby a couple held two young boys while completing an application. While some parents specify gifts, they were not particular.

"Just as long as they get something to open on Christmas day," the father said.

While the deadline for applications has passed, there are still five shopping days left to make some kid's Christmas.

Angel Trees are set up at the Nugget Mall, Mendenhall Mall, Fred Meyer, Big Kmart, Moose Lodge, Foodland Super Drug and the Alaska State Federal Credit Union. Gifts can be placed under the trees until Dec. 19.

The presents will be distributed the next day when parents come by the Salvation Army headquarters to pick up their food baskets. The family wraps the gifts for Christmas.

"The child may never know where it came from," Salvation Army Lt. Christie Kamalo said. "Some parents tell them, some don't."

The program, one of several holiday gift drives in Juneau, usually provides 350 to 400 gifts each year. The community comes through for the younger kids.

There were plenty of Barbies and Tickle Me Elmos and Sesame Street toys on the Salvation Army tables, but only a few gifts such as board games appropriate for older kids and teens.

Kamalo said that's typical, so the Salvation Army depends on cash donations to buy gift certificates for CDs and clothes for the older children.

"But people here are very generous," Kamalo said. "They try to give the best gifts, something they'd get for their own children."

Residents pull Angel Tree tags, which include information about the children such as name, age, sex and gift wish.

Almost all of the tags had been pulled at the Nugget Mall but more than a dozen remained unclaimed on Wednesday at the Mendenhall Mall tree across from Plumb Gold. Christopher, 7, was still looking for a Buzz Lightyear sleeping bag; Stephanie, 10, a melody harp; and Regina, 14, a movie gift certificate.

"Something I've noticed about people in Juneau is that they'll hold on to the tags for a week, shopping meticulously for that child," Kamalo said.

There's not that much time left anymore.

For more information, call Kamalo at the Salvation Army, 586-2136, or drop by the Willoughby office next to the Fiddlehead.

Mike Sica can be reached at msica@juneauempire.com.



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