Angel Tree program makes Christmas bright for local families

Wednesday, December 16, 2020
The Angel Tree is an a school-wide project at Eureka Springs High School. Pictured from left to right are: (back row) JJ Owens, Kaylie Partee, Jerry Runnersmith and Rick Mann and (front row) Celia Stodden, Rachal Hyatt and Jacob Eastburn.
Submitted photo

By Samantha Jones

The Angel Tree program is a time-honored tradition in Carroll County, offering locals the opportunity to brighten Christmas for families in need. The Eureka Springs program is run through the Eureka Springs High School, where students, faculty and staff get involved to help out.

Eureka Springs High School counselor Rachal Hyatt said the program has 117 participating children this year, saying that’s pretty similar to past years.

“We usually have anywhere from 110 to 130, so it’s about the same as we’ve always had,” Hyatt said. “Of course, that’s low-income families that qualify and it’s our district only.”

Hyatt said some new families have called to be part of the program. That makes sense, Hyatt said, because the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many families in the Eureka Springs area.

“It’s just the situation we’re in. Some people have been out of work for an extended amount of time,” Hyatt said. “They’ve found themselves in situations this year they’ve not been in before. That’s exactly what the program’s for, to help families in the situation they find themselves in.”

Hyatt said students at the high school and staff members are all pitching in to help wrap the gifts. Some tags weren’t returned on time, Hyatt said, so she posted the information on Facebook. It wasn’t long before all the tags were taken, she said.

“Someone commented that years ago, they had been put on the Angel Tree because they were in a divorce situation and they needed help that year,” Hyatt said. “So this year, they had taken a couple of tags. That’s what it’s for, to help people in a time of need for a couple of years and maybe when they’re in a better place, they can pay it forward.”

Hyatt said she’s always amazed at the generosity of the Eureka Springs community.

“That’s a lot of kids for this community, and they are filled every single year,” Hyatt said. “This is my 10th or 11th year doing it, and we’ve never not had a kid that’s been on the Angel Tree be filled. It’s the easiest community to do something like this in.”

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