By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: Dec. 22, 2017 | 9:20 a.m.
SUSSEX – Tia Sanchez, DSS Program Administrator and leader of the Sussex County 2017 Angel Tree Project, beamed as she shared her excitement about the community’s response to the effort.
“I’m just overwhelmed!” Sanchez said! “I honestly wasn’t expecting such a huge response! This community has filled a 53 foot trailer, two offices and now we’re working on filling a conference room with gifts for the kids this Christmas!”
Sanchez, who has worked tirelessly toward making this project a success, always insists that though she, Mr. Plourde and the rest of the DSS staff have been leading the effort, it’s definitely a community effort. Even Sanchez’s three children shopped – with their own money – to help provide clothing and toys for the children served by the project, because she said she believes it helps them understand the needs of so many in the community, and appreciate their own blessings.
But there won’t be pictures of Angel Tree kids receiving the gifts from the community because of the very special way the project is being handled.
“Santa will be putting these gifts under each child’s Christmas tree, just as he will gifts for other children,” Sanchez explained. “We (community members) are all donating and sharing gifts for Santa to give the children, but these will show up in their homes – just like other in children’s homes – as gifts from Santa.”
“And these are not just ‘little’ gifts,” Sanchez continued. “People spared no expense and really gave from the heart in a very generous way. We got over 100 bicycles!”
That was a source of special joy for Sanchez, as bicycles were one of the two most-requested items from the children participating in the program. The other most asked-for item? A warm coat. And when word got out that there are many children who lack even that much-needed item for the winter, Sanchez said that the response was immediate – and breathtaking.
“The phone just started ringing off the hook with people saying things like, ‘I didn’t know you needed coats! I’m bringing some right now!’” Sanchez exclaimed. “People wanted to know how many children needed coats, if there were any kids left over that they could help, if they could donate gently used coats – we even had people wanting to donate Christmas dinners to families! And you know, thanks to the generosity of Sheriff Giles and others in the community, we were able to provide some dinners, too.”
“One thing this says to me,” Sanchez continued, “is that we really need to get the word out – that we all need to remember that there are lots of people out there who are working HARD, but still having to struggle and need a helping hand – and not just at Christmas. So yes, do take coats to DSS for children who have the need, even after Christmas is over; we’ll make sure they get to the schools – to the children who need them. We really just need to all make a commitment to ongoing kindness.”
“But you know, right now,” she said, “I’m just so thankful for the generosity of this community – helping almost 300 kids who might otherwise have had a pretty bleak holiday – helping them to share in the joy that ALL kids need and deserve at Christmas.”
Sanchez said that she’d like to thank the Board of Supervisors (and therefore, everyone in the county) for getting this community-wide effort off to a great start.
“And after that, it snowballed,” she said. “Food Lion donated a trailer to store the things in until Christmas, the Waverly Based Virginia State Police donated a huge amount. So did the Sussex One State Correctional Facility. And the Sussex County Sheriff’s Department was so helpful with donations – out of their own pockets. Sheriff Giles sent a patrol car over to help give out gifts, saying, ‘When it comes to the kids in this county you can call on me for anything.’ He as well as members of the Board of Supervisors recruited donors for us as well as helping with handling all the things coming in. The Pastors’ Coalition of Sussex County was a huge help, Boar’s Head out of Jarrett was very generous, and there were so many caring churches and individuals who helped, and I just want to thank them all!”
Asked what was her favorite thing about running the project, Sanchez replied, “Reading about the different kids and what they liked. I felt like I got to know the kids in the county better. And all the phone calls from board members and people all over the area wanting to know how they could help and if all the children were covered. I just want everyone in the county to know that I love them. They’re great. It’s so good to know that the world still operates off of charity and kindness, and that the concept of helping others get to where you are – giving a hand up – is still in place. I want everyone to know that you helped, and I thank you. And the Angel Tree kids, and their parents – even though they don’t know who you are – I know they thank you, too.”