Christmas came a little bit early on Wednesday at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. For the fourth straight year, the school held a special event benefiting children of low-income students.
“This is the Angel Tree celebration,” said Will Bruce, Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) director. “Every year we put up Christmas trees with ‘Angel Tree’ tags and people pick the tags and get gifts for students.”
Gifts were purchased primarily by members of the Hancock community. Angel Trees were located at Hancock campuses in Santa Maria and Lompoc.
“This is helping out low-income and education disadvantaged students in the programs EOPS, CARE (Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education), CalWORKS, as well as poor students that are not in the programs,” Bruce said.
The Angel Tree program has been held at Hancock for more than 10 years. The special three-hour long kid’s party was created three years ago to enhance the gift distribution.
“To be part of this is a great opportunity,” said student Lindsey Mccormack “It’s so awesome with my son, to be able to come here with other children. It’s really nice.”
In addition to receiving a gift, kids were treated to a number of activities, such as games, arts and crafts, candy giveaways and an opportunity to meet Santa Claus.
“It is so awesome seeing the children,” Mccormack said. “They’re so excited taking part in the activities and when they receive their candy and they run along to the next game, they’re so happy.”
Nearly 200 children received gifts through the Angel Tree program. For students like Mccormack, she said she’s touched by the generosity displayed by strangers who make the program possible.
“To have that in your heart to give to another family and to give to children that miss out on the gifts, and being able to come together and make this a great holiday, it’s an amazing moment,” Mccormack said. “It makes the holidays that much better knowing that somebody else took part in giving to your family.”
Gifts given to kids were valued at least $25, but according to Bruce, many times, they’re worth much more.
“We’ve had some people who took a whole family and actually took them out shopping and bought an entire shopping cart,” said Bruce.
The Angel Tree celebration held Wednesday took place at Hancock’s Santa Maria campus. On Thursday, another one will be held at its Lompoc campus.