Christmas Angels: NHS students wrap gifts for Angel Tree Program recipients

Thursday, December 23, 2021
Eureka Springs High School National Honor Society students take a break from wrapping gifts for the Angel Tree program on Friday, Dec. 10. The gifts were distributed two weeks later on Dec. 21-22.
Samantha Jones / Lovely County Citizen

At Eureka Springs High School, giving back is the name of the game. And that’s exactly what National Honor Society students focused on the last two weeks before Christmas break, cheerfully wrapping gifts for students enrolled in the Angel Tree program.

School counselor Rachal Hyatt said 116 students were enrolled in the program this year, a “pretty typical” number of recipients. Those students span the entire school district, Hyatt said, from elementary to high school. It’s her 10th year running the program, Hyatt said, and this year was especially sweet because every Angel Tree tag was filled almost immediately.

“There are years where I’ve had to beg a little more in the community, to say, ‘We have these extra kids. Can anybody help me?’ ” Hyatt said. “This year, we’ve been so blessed. We’ve never had a kid go without, but this year, every tag has been taken immediately. We haven’t been looking for sponsors. It’s a real blessing.”

In addition to the community members, senior Mackenzie Loudermilk said, a motorcycle group called the Punishers dropped off a truckload of gifts on Dec. 10. Loudermilk said it’s heartwarming to see so many people help out those in need.

“It’s really nice that people would spend their money to help around the holidays,” Loudermilk said.

Loudermilk said she’s fortunate to have grown up never worrying about what’s going to be under the Christmas tree. She can only imagine how that feels, Loudermilk said.

“I’m sure that makes a parent sad as well,” Loudermilk said.

Junior Kaylie Partee said she can related to the students enrolled in the program. She’s been there, Partee said.

“A lot of kids growing up really don’t think about it a lot, but they don’t grow up with much, and being a kid who was like that, it feels really good to give back and give them something I never had as a kid,” Partee said. “I know it will make them really happy.”

Senior Ali Fargo said she was surprised to see certain items like clothing and toothbrushes on the Angel Tree tags.

“They asked for basic stuff you wouldn’t think of asking for as a gift,” Fargo said.

Senior Kegley Ertel agreed.

“I was very surprised to see that stuff on the cards,” Ertel said. “It’s stuff like that you wouldn’t think kids would ask for, but they do.”

Ertel added, “ I don’t think anybody here really understands the need for the gifts, like how many people in town can’t afford it, so it’s good we help provide that.”

Senior Olivia Cross described the experience as “eye-opening.”

“It’s not just about what they might need, but you also realize how fortunate you are,” Cross said. “Waking up on Christmas and having gifts … it makes a big difference to that day.”

“It’s definitely been eye-opening for me,” junior Shane Holloway said. “It feels good to help them. Some kids never know if there’s going to be anything for them. Some kids, they just need clothes. That’s all they want.”

Holloway added, “Some kids really need it, even though some of us might not think about it. Some kids need it a lot.”

Senior Vivian Thomas said her family has struggled from time to time, and it feels good to help others in the same boat.

“It’s super heartwarming to help out,” Thomas said.

“It feels really good just knowing you’re helping other kids,” junior Kalah Edwards said.

Hyatt said the gifts were distributed Tuesday and Wednesday, and parents only interacted with adults during pickup. Hyatt stressed that the students never see who the gifts are going to — the gifts are numbered to maintain confidentiality.

“The parents are always very thankful and happy. Many kids get bikes,” Hyatt said. “We’ve had families that had to leave and go get the truck and come back. They’re very happy families that otherwise couldn’t put on a Christmas.”

Hyatt thanked everyone who helped out with the program, from the students who wrapped gifts to the community members who bought them.

“Every year, I’m so thankful. I’ve never had a kid go needy,” Hyatt said. “We’re just lucky to live in the community we live in. As usual, I’m so thankful to everybody in our community.”

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