Angel Tree gets helping hand

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Marjorie A. Bowlden
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

For many, the most wonderful time of the year begins as the days grow shorter, the nights grow colder, and the holidays creep closer on the calendar. For others, however, this time of year is not as joyous. Some families may struggle to get by and find it difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy the holidays as they used to.


This is where the 911th Airlift Wing’s Angel Tree Program comes in. Through this program, people can donate gift cards to Pittsburgh military families in need. These gift cards bring a measure of peace of mind to families so that they can enjoy the holidays with one another.


“This program helps people associated with the 911th AW have a better holiday, whether that be through affording presents for their children, necessities for themselves, replacing appliances or other household goods,” said Staff Sgt. Ashley Wiley, aircraft structural maintenance technician with the 911th Maintenance Squadron and manager of the Angel Tree Program. “Every dollar donated goes to assist Airmen in need.”


Wiley has managed the program and taken gift card donations for several years. This year, however, a donating organization made a contribution that was a little bit different.


Heroes Supporting Heroes, a local non-profit organization, took a special interest in the program this year. HSH helps to support local military families in a plethora of ways, from helping veterans to find jobs to conducting home repairs for the families of deployed members.


Sherry Lee, a coordinator of the organization, contacted Staff Sgt. Ashley Wiley in regards to the tree. She had discovered that deployed Airman’s wife might need help affording Christmas gifts for her children, and this 911th AW family was not the only one in need this year, either. Sherry and HSH wanted to reach out and give these families as magical a holiday as possible.


“We’ve purchased between $100 and $175 worth of gifts per child,” said Lee. “These families are truly heroes themselves. The children and spouse are sacrificing too, and to us, they’re just as important as the military member.”


This was far from what was expected, said Wiley. Over the phone, Lee told her that HSH has volunteered to provide these gifts for up to 30 military families. Though she has been managing the program for four years, she had never experienced anything like this.


“I almost started crying on the phone when she told me how much money that she was spending to purchase toys and clothes for all of these children,” said Wiley. “I thought they’d spend about $50 maximum, or maybe one item per kid. It blew my mind.”


Two trees stand on base, one in the fitness center lobby and one in Perksburgh. Each tree is decorated with angel-shaped magnets that state what kind of gift card is needed. The donor can select the amount that they feel most comfortable in giving and return the gift card to their first sergeant, chief master sergeant or to Wiley.


Anyone can participate and be a donor. The last date to turn in gift cards is Dec. 9, 2016. For more information on how to donate, contact Wiley at 412-474-8327.