BLUE HILL, Maine — Although Halloween is barely over, the Christmas Angels program at the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill already is gearing up for its 22nd year providing gifts of warm clothing to youngsters in need.
The program provides clothing for children from birth to age 18 living in the Blue Hill Peninsula area including Surry, Orland, Deer Isle and Stonington. The origins of the program go back more than 22 years, according to the Angels’ director, Kathy Soper.
“It was passed to us from Four Town Nursing,” Soper said. “It started off pretty small. That first year we only had about 17 families. Last year, we had 215 children in 87 families. It has steadily been going up every year.”
The need has increased in these tough economic times, Soper said, but despite the past couple of years being difficult for so many people, there was an increase in donations and participation in the Christmas Angels Program. There were 103 angels helping others last year, she said.
Although the Christmas Angels program is organized through the church, Soper said it extends to the entire Blue Hill Peninsula community. Groups from the different schools in the area usually participate, and often groups such as the Rebekahs and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Blue Hill Fire Department as well as businesses will organize as a team to shop for one or more families.
“It’s definitely much more the community than just the church itself,” she said. “The church is a good jumping-off place, but it is a community effort. People really do want to help.”
Some angels provide financial support through donations to the program while others buy gifts. The shoppers have information from families relating to age, gender, sizes and specific needs, Soper said. The gifts are wrapped and delivered early in December so they can be there in time for the holiday.
“The families really appreciate it; they’re very grateful to have the help,” Soper said. “The angels like to be able to help, especially during the holidays. It’s a good feeling to give.”
Other angels knit and provide hats, gloves and blankets that are added to the gifts. The Christmas Angels don’t buy toys, but several years ago, the program began including stuffed animals and books in the gift packages.
Each year, the program adds something new. Last year, organizers created thank-you notes for the families to send to the angels.
“The angels are always anonymous, but the families would send thank-you notes to the church,” Soper said. “This way they can send notes to the angels directly from them. People like the opportunity to say thank you.”
This year, local artist Marsha Stremlau has created an angel logo that will appear on thank-you notes and gift cards for donors who want to make a donation in someone else’s name. Soper said each year organizers hope to have a local artist create a painting of an angel that can be used for the program.
To participate in the Christmas Angels program, contact Katy Soper at email@example.com or 374-2703. Financial donations can be mailed to Christmas Angels, First Congregational Church of Blue Hill, P.O. Box 444, Blue Hill 04614.
To obtain a request form for help from the program, contact Wendy Ritger at 374-2891 or firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 22.