When the last bicycle was delivered and the other volunteers began to disperse, Hattie Standridge had a moment to look around and take measure of what she and her fellow Arkansas Tech University students had achieved on behalf of the 2018 Salvation Army Angel Tree program.
"It's been very exciting and gratifying to be able to help out," said Standridge, an ATU graduate student from Sulphur, Okla., graduate assistant in the ATU Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and resident director at Caraway Hall. "It was exciting to be able to visit with everyone on campus who was willing to adopt an angel. As the people were bringing in the gifts, they were in awe of how many people we were able to help. We're truly inspired to continue to help, and hopefully we can use that to reach out to people in the future. The little boy that I sponsored is 8 months old. You can do so much for them, but I also want the parents to know that we care about their families as a whole."
The ATU student-led effort to support the Salvation Army Angel Tree program yielded the sponsorship of 150 children. Their holiday wishes will come true due to generosity of Arkansas Tech students, faculty and staff. The ATU outreach represents approximately 40 percent of the local children who will be served by the program this year.
"As a recipient myself years ago for my kids, it means the world," said Capt. Andrew Thorson of the local Salvation Army. "There are so many people who absolutely cannot afford to purchase these kinds of gifts for their kids. Being able to see the tears in their eyes and the gratitude when they pick up the items is beyond amazing and very heartwarming."
This marks the third consecutive year that ATU students have led an effort to support the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. Helping Halls, another annual partnership between ATU and the Salvation Army, has provided 3,300 holiday meals to neighbors in need over the past 12 years.
"Students don't always have the best funding themselves as they go through school and work at the same time," said Thorson. "So as I look at this floor filled with toys and bicycles, it is simply amazing because I know what those students are going through, too. For them to take time away from work and school to help us with such a huge program...it's overwhelming to see what they do. It's a wonderful partnership that we have built up over the years."