Each holiday season, NIEHS partners with the Salvation Army of Durham with an Angel Tree, an annual initiative to provide toys, clothes, and other items to needy families in the local community.
This year, the institute met its goal of providing donations to 100 families. The bikes, baby dolls, and more were piled onto a truck Dec. 9, outside of the main building. “When you’re struggling just to clothe and feed your family, this time of year can be really overwhelming,” said Myra Westmoreland, an administrative officer with NIEHS. “The Angel Tree drive helps to ease some of that stress for these families and reminds us all how magical the holidays can be.”
Westmoreland was a lead organizer of this year’s drive along with NIEHS biologist Veronica Godfrey Robinson.
A seasonal legacy of giving
The Angel Tree program began in 1979 when Majors Charles and Shirley White of the Salvation Army in Lynchburg, Virginia joined with a local shopping mall to provide clothing and toys to children for the holidays. Since then, the tradition has expanded nationwide and is now the cornerstone of The Salvation Army's Christmas efforts.
Today, organizations take part in Angel Tree by placing holiday trees inside their facilities, along with tags containing a list of items that each child or family would love to receive. Employees pick a tag, purchase the items, and leave them under tree for pickup by Salvation Army officials. In the case of NIEHS, donations were left under Angel Trees in the Rall and Keystone building lobbies.
“I’ve been with this program every year since its inception, and never once have we missed our goal,” said Robinson. “That’s a real testament to the caliber of people we have here at NIEHS.”
(Ian Thomas is a public affairs specialist with the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a regulator contributor to the Environmental Factor.)