Christmas will be harder for some families than normal years as the COVID-19 pandemic causes financial struggles, but one group in Cassopolis decided 2020 would be the year they had to help.
Felicia Albert said she received help from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program, which inspired her to pay it forward. The wishing tree may be small with a few ornaments, but Albert hopes it’s the answer to a challenging year.
"Try to end our year with a little bit of a bright spot, help our community," she said. "I’ve always wanted to do something like this and decided to jump in both feet and just go for it."
Their Facebook group has become a hub for people asking for help. In just one week, they’ve helped more than 25 people.
"When you see someone with basic needs-- food, beds, clothes-- you can't ignore that. This community, they’ve done a great job stepping up and make sure those needs are met," said Jason Smith.
Serving only Cass County, those in need have either left their wish in the tree’s notebook or online, and the support has come quickly.
"Literally almost like a race to trying to help people on some of these," said Smith. "They are back-and-forth right away with immediate needs being met."
And it didn’t take long for Samantha Rainwater’s wish to be answered. She’s new to the area, and all she wanted was a bed for her kids to sleep on.
"Yesterday I had one of the twins dropped off. I’ve already been in contact with getting another twin bed this weekend," said Rainwater.
Another first for her-- a real Christmas tree her family can now enjoy.
"I don’t know how to show the appreciation I have for what has happened, the fact that everyone is willing to help."
"I’ve spent this week doing a lot of happy crying because it’s just been amazing," said Albert. "It’s the best present that I could’ve personally ever asked for."
A twinkle signifies another wish granted.
"I’m just really glad that my kids will be able to wake up Christmas morning and actually have a bed, have a tree, and know that there’s people out there willing to help," said Rainwater.
Albert said she wants to help as many people as she can, but because it is a local group, she encourages others who either need help or want to help to go to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree to make another wish come true.