Women United Member Gets a Look into the Lives Represented by The Salvation Army Angel Trees

The colors red and white define the holiday season — appearing everywhere from candy canes and Santa’s suit to the familiar tags adorning The Salvation Army Angel Trees. Coined “Angels,” these tags represent wishes from less fortunate families hoping to have their specific needs and wants met on Christmas Day.

Months before we start blowing the dust off our holiday decorations, The Salvation Army is busy pre-screening families to verify that they meet the requirements to qualify for the Angel Tree program.

To help with this process, Women United volunteers from United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) step in by checking children’s birth certificates, proof of residency and more. Volunteers also assist families in completing their child’s Angel Tree wish list.

If a family qualifies, the Angel Tree program obtains the name of each child 12 or younger in the family, and a list of desired gifts. The lists include a “need” item (often clothing) and a “wish” item (usually a toy or electronic tablet). The Salvation Army then transfers this information to the red and white Angel Tree tags we see every year.

Adding a New Perspective to an Annual Tradition

For Women United member Eleanor Griffin, adopting several Angels is one of her favorite holiday traditions. Adopters don’t know anything else about the child receiving the gift aside from age, gender and wish. Eleanor caught a glimpse into who’s on the other side of those wishes by assisting in behind-the-scenes efforts this year.

“I’ve always wondered about the lives behind the names on each tag. My Women United volunteer experience gave me a small peek into those lives.”

Eleanor Griffin, Women United Member

Even just the drive to The Salvation Army Center of Hope affected Eleanor. It reminded her there’s another side to the city that is often unnoticed or ignored.

“We’re so used to endless strips of shops, services, gas stations, drug stores, etc. that we take for granted. The Salvation Army campus serves an area which is not only a food desert, but a basic service desert, too. It opened my eyes to the economic inequalities that plague areas of our community.”


Learning about the humble requests these families have for their children further cemented Eleanor’s feelings. These aren’t merely 2D names printed on flat pieces of paper. They’re real, live individuals who are part of our community and need our support.

Sometimes when we consider giving to a cause, we don’t always realize the significance of our donation. Learning more about the Angel Tree families gave Eleanor a better perspective of who she is helping.

“It was quite sobering listening to women quietly asking for necessities like underwear and a coat for Christmas gifts for their children. It’s so easy to compartmentalize the ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘at-risk.’ But seeing these women and men’s quiet dignity under circumstances most of us cannot imagine gave me a small window into their daily world.”


Women United Opens Opportunities to Learn More

Projects such as this allow Women United members to live UWCA’s mission and see first-hand the impact their service makes. They remove the barriers between yourself and those you’re helping.

“I love the Women United projects as we often get to directly work with the clients United Way serves. Every time I have personal one-on-one contact and learn about our clients, I feel it makes me a better volunteer and, I hope, a better citizen in getting out of my comfort zone and into a world I want to better understand how we can help. Volunteering with The Salvation Army literally brings the United Way tagline ‘Live United’ to life.”


Are you looking to step into Santa’s boots this year? The Salvation Army Angel Trees are relocating to The Outlet Shops of Grand River and Riverchase Galleria.

Learn more about Women United and how you can become a positive change agent within your community by clicking here.