Angel Tree Program Helps More Families Than Ever

By Frank Sinatra, AAP Editor

Thanks to the generosity of the local community, Pennsauken’s Angel Tree program was the most successful it’s ever been. Last month, over 40 families in need were helped during the holidays.

“The response that we received this year was amazing,” says Elwood “Duke” Martz, director of Pennsauken’s Parks and Recreation department. “A lot of residents, businesses and organizations were very generous. Because of them, children who normally would go without had presents under their Christmas trees.”

The Angel Tree was started over 20 years ago by then administrator Ken Carruth and Bernie Kofoet, who served the Township for many years as the superintendent of Pennsauken’s Public Works Department. The two placed a Christmas Tree at the Penn Queen Diner, allowing both patrons and members of the community an opportunity to help their neighbors in need during the holidays. The success of that endeavor turned into today’s Angel Tree program.

Several groups and businesses provided financial donations to help the Angel Tree program purchase toys for needy families, including the Pennsauken-Merchantville Area Chamber of Commerce (PMAC), the employees who work at the Pennsauken Township Municipal Building, the Women’s Auxiliary of Gross-Hollinshed VFW Post 1270, and Baldwin Elementary School. In addition, Physician and Tactical Healthcare Services, LLC (PATHS) made a very generous donation that enabled the program to help even more families this holiday season.

Others groups donated new, unwrapped toys throughout the month of December. The giving kicked off with a toy donation drive, held by members of PMAC at the Double Nickel Brewery. Thanks also go to Saint Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church, Bombardier Transportation, T&M Associates, the Merchantville-Pennsauken Water Commission, as well as Mike Killion and friends, all of whom helped create a record toy collection for the Angel Tree program this year. The Angel Tree also benefitted greatly from the generous donation by John Lancaster and Discount Harry’s, which is getting out of the toy business after 41 years and focusing on bikes and pools; as well as Michael Bruce, owner of Michael Bruce Florist in Pennsauken. Bruce doesn’t wait for the holidays to come around to give back to children in need. In fact, he collects unwrapped toys all year round and donates them to worthy causes.

“We were looking around at what we had and we’re blessed. We have enough. It crossed our minds that people could give an unwrapped toy instead of a bottle of wine for a party or as a gift,” explains Bruce. “We started two Thanksgivings ago and had a huge response. Christmas is for kids; they’re our natural resource. We need kids who can look to the goodness in life.”

“It’s tough in these situations. As a parent, you want to be able to give your kids toys all year round, but responsibilities like buying food and paying bills come first,” adds Marilyn Ford, manager at Michael Bruce Florist, who helped deliver over 30 toys to the Township Building. “Christmas may be the only time they’ll get presents.”

“The Angel Tree program means a lot to this community,” says Rick Taylor, mayor of Pennsauken Township for 2015. “It’s so wonderful that residents, as well as local businesses and organizations, come together to help those in need. We all hope that this spirit of giving back and generosity continues in this New Year and for many more to come.”

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