By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on November 15, 2023.
The 2023 Angel Tree Campaign has officially launched and is on its way to help more than 3,800 youngsters to have a memorable Christmas.
Avonlea Homes has stepped up this year as presenting sponsor and during the campaign launch Tuesday at one of their show homes the company made a significant donation.
Customer experience manager at Avonlea, Ron Tyslau, said everyone at Avonlea Homes was excited to become the presenting sponsor.
Â “It takes a lot to be a presenting sponsor and one thing that we focused on is that we did not want to be of all the financial concept, although that is important, it’s more celebrating 31 years of the Angel Tree program, 31 years of bringing joy and bringing happiness, reaching those that we will never meet, we will never see but knowing that on Christmas Day that we have brought joy to their lives and their families,” said Tyslau.
He shared with those in attendance that throughout the last few years, Avonlea has become more involved with the campaign by increasing the number of toys donated every year, but always wanting to do even more.
Tyslau said in 2019 they donated 50 toys, in 2020 that increased to 256, in 2021 they donated 456 toys, and last year that number increased again to 625 toys. It was in 2022 that Avonlea Homes decided to take the next step.
“In 2022 we changed a few things and we said that we’re not going to remain status quo, we’re going to think outside of the box. We’re not going to remain on the sidelines looking in, we’re going to become part of this program,” said Tyslau.
This year as a presenting sponsor and with the support from many trades people and other community members, Avonlea wanted to make a monetary donation. Tyslau said he had a number in mind but thought it was too low and it was surpassed at the end of the day.
“We want to present you with the dollar value that our trades and many others have supported this program with. The utilization of this cheque will go to purchasing toys. We had a ballpark of $17,500 and in my heart I knew that was low, and we didn’t make it, but we did make $19,200â€¦ well, I’m wrong on that, the total just changed to $19,700,” said Tyslau.
Â While presenting the cheque to Lethbridge Family Services’ Michelle Gallucci, Tyslau received a call that added $500 to the original amount of $19,200 written on the cheque.
Â “This year we will be providing over 880 toys to the Angel Tree program,” said Tyslau.
After that, 2023 Angel Tree Campaign co-chair Karen Nemeth spoke to those in attendance and said the Angel Tree campaign is something that takes all year to prepare.
“In January we start gathering hygiene items we give to the teens and the twins, and we have people that are sewing bags where these hygiene items are put in, we have people that are donating items all the time,” said Nemeth.
Â She reminisced about a time when she was purchasing multiple deodorants and while paying the cashier she was asked why she was purchasing so many. When Angel Tree was mentioned, the cashier told Nemeth her five kids were recipients of Angel Tree bundles over 20 years ago while she was in a shelter with them and they still have the stuffed animals so many years later.
Nemeth said members of the community also donate items to Angel Tree throughout the year that will help children stay warm when they receive them.
“We have 80 some year-old women and men in our community that are actually knitting hats all year-long that donate them to make sure these children have more hats and mitts. Angel Tree is a message of hope for all of us,” said Nemeth.
Lethbridge Family Services CEO, Sandra Mintz, recognized the effort it takes to put together the Angel Tree campaign and said she is very thankful for the way the community comes together to support those in need.
Â “I couldn’t be prouder of the way that our community comes together for it, especially during times that are difficult. I remember when we were going through the pandemic, the Lethbridge community came out in spades to support our Angel Tree campaign, and I think it’s something positive that people can put their energy and their resources into, in a time that we don’t have a lot of good news going around,” said Mintz.
She said this year Angel Tree has 132 drop-off locations and more than 500 volunteers working hard to make sure those 3,800 children receive a gift bundle.
“We’re going to give each of those children a gift bundle, not just a gift, a very thoughtful gift bundle. We will give them something off of their Christmas list, something educational to fuel their mind, something inspirational to fuel their imagination and something warm and cuddly,” said Mintz.
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