‘Service is our thing:’ Clovis Salvation Army’s Angel Tree toy drive serves less fortunate

Clovis Corps officials (left to right) Lt. Kalani Onitsuka-Adams and Capt. Jennie Onitsuka-Adams played major roles in the Clovis Salvation Army’s toy drive this year. (Ron Sundquist/Clovis Roundup)

Volunteers and officials of the Clovis Salvation Army took time this holiday season to give back by distributing Christmas toys to those in need on Friday, Dec. 22.

“We have our toy distribution as part of our Angel Tree program, where we help people in the community that need a little extra help this holiday season,” said Clovis Corps Capt. Jennie Onitsuka-Adams. “They come in, fill out an application and write their child’s name on an angel tag. The tags go up at Sierra Vista Mall, Central Valley Community Bank and Panera Bread. People from the community then come in, pick a name off the tree, buy a gift for that child and bring it back to the location. We then sort the gifts and distribute them. It’s a great program and a big help for all the people that need it this Christmas season.”

The Angel Tree is a unique program that started in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1979. It involves the community in a direct way allowing them to become personally involved by sharing with those less fortunate in their community. The program provides gifts of new clothing and toys to thousands of children who otherwise might not have anything for Christmas.

Serving as the “middle man” for those buying the gifts and those needing the help is a joyous experience for Clovis Corps Lt. Kalani Onitsuka-Adams, in his second year with the Clovis Salvation Army.

“Warming the hearts of this community is just an amazing feeling,” he said. “Last year we had quite a bit of families participate and this year, we had more. The need was there more, so everyone just came together to make this happen and support a lot of these families. I am just so joyed and honored to be part of such a great community.”

Children who are recipients of Angel Tree gifts are from families who have applied for Christmas assistance through the Social Services program of The Salvation Army. During the application process, the clothing sizes and special needs of the children are determined and written on the application and is then transferred to paper “angels” along with the child’s first name, age, and whether the gift is for a boy or a girl.

The “angels” contain a code number which corresponds to the client’s application number. All children in a family have the same code number, followed by “1” for the first child, “2” for the second child, etc. For those that qualify, their angels are then taken to area shopping malls, Sierra Vista Mall in this case, and select locations where they are selected by concerned shoppers who then purchase any or all of the items listed. After purchasing these items, the gifts are returned to the Angel Trees, which are staffed at each mall by volunteers.

“We could really see the community coming together to help the Salvation Army and all the people that we help,” said Capt. Jennie Onitsuka-Adams. “We’re just blown away by the generosity, support and love from the Clovis community.”