Citizens urged to choose an angel or two.

Salvation Army Lt. Philip Canning urged citizens at the annual Angel Tree and Red Kettle kick-off to choose an angel or two, representing more than 810 children, to help give them a Christmas they might not otherwise have.

“We thank you so much for caring about this community and being willing to pitch in and to make sure that every child in this community gets to experience the joys of Christmas morning and that every family will get to sit down and have a nice Christmas meal together and also Thanksgiving meal,” he said.

Mike Askins, of KGFF radio, had the honor of picking the first angel off the Salvation Army Angel Tree located at the kick-off event host, Arvest bank on Broadway.

“Our family tradition has been, since we have three boys, we always pick little girls,” he said and then read off the girl angel’s information while joking he would have to walk through the store with lots of pink things.

Askins said he isn’t the only member of his family who buys gifts for an angel.

“Since our boys were very tiny, they got the chance to go pick angels themselves,” he said. “We hope to see this tradition grow and keep growing.”

Askins originally got involved with the Salvation Army through his wife. He said he was always involved with his church but once he got involved with the Salvation Army, he saw “just how incredible these people are and what they do.”

“It’s the ultimate in service,” he said. “It’s the service to the hearts and spirits and souls of people and also lifting up their bodies. They take care of the physical so they can take care of the spiritual as well and that’s very important.”

Askins said because he works in the radio business, he usually has to work during the holidays so he’s become somewhat “jaded over the years” but said working with the Salvation Army helps him refocus on the meaning of the holiday season.

“When I work with the kettles or work with the Angel Tree, I remember the importance, the beauty of Christmas and the true spirit of Christmas; our Lord and Savior’s birth and therefore our chance at life as well so it’s a very special time for me,” he said.

Canning said this year, through the Angel Tree program, the Salvation Army will serve 382 families in the area.

Canning expressed concern because although the Red Kettle campaign begins Monday and even though some businesses will put up Angel Trees after the kick-off, others have to wait until the day after Thanksgiving.

“We’re in a big time crunch this year because there is one less week in between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said.

Canning added that because a lot of people are busy during the holidays, some are not able to “adopt” an angel because of time constraints. He said the Angel Tree isn’t the only way people can give during the holidays.

“If you can’t adopt an angel, per se, you can collect a new toy or a new coat and drop that off at Walmart and we use that to fill the angels that have not been returned,” he said.

One way to do this, Canning said, is during the second annual ‘Fill the Truck’ campaign held at Walmart. In Pottawatomie County, the campaign event is held Nov. 30, while Lincoln County’s event date is Dec. 7 and Seminole County’s is Dec. 14.

“We’re also grateful this year to add the FFA to our list of those organizations that are going to be collecting toys and they will be at the mall on Dec. 7,” he said.

Wanda Barnett, Angel Tree chairperson, said she grew up in Shawnee and has seen how people respond to the Angel Tree program.

“Since becoming involved with Angel Tree, it really is neat for me to have seen how Shawnee supports this program as well as the kettle program,” she said.

Barnett gave thanks on behalf of the Salvation Army and Angel Tree program for those supporting their efforts.

“We want to say ‘thanks’ one more year to Shawnee and the surrounding area; Pottawatomie County, Lincoln and Seminole and a special thanks to Arvest for being so kind to host this,” she said.

Barbara Boyce, of Buford White’s Ace Building Center, said the company has had an Angel Tree since before she was employed.

“It’s always been a tradition of Mr. and Mrs. White’s,” she said.

Boyce added that she, herself, also participates in ‘adopting’ an angel every year.

“I see a lot of kids out there that don’t get to have Christmas,” she said, adding every child should get to experience what Christmas really is all about.

Pat Carpenter, president of the United Methodist Women’s Club, said McLoud United Methodist Church has participated in the Angel Tree program for many years.

“We just think that’s very important,” she said and encouraged others to participate as well.

Canning said the three major places where citizens can pick out angels are Walmart, K-Mart and Shawnee Mall however, there are several other Angel Tree sponsors including downtown Arvest, Banc First on Harrison, Buford White’s Ace Building Center, Central Plastics, the City of Shawnee, Exxon Mobil Corporation, First United Bank on Independence, McLoud United Methodist Church, OBU Athletic Department, Prudential Carolyn Harris Reality, Shawnee Board of Education, Solara, Temple Baptist Church, Vision Bank, Wesley United Methodist Church, OG&E, Frontline Church, Citizens Potawatomie Nation, TDK, and Domino’s Pizza.

Canning said there are other programs during the holiday season in which citizens can be involved.

“We have volunteer opportunities available on Thanksgiving Day beginning at 8 a.m. and going until about 2 p.m.,” he said, adding the actual Thanksgiving Day dinner will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

Canning said Saturday there will be an event called Turkey for Tunes held at Walmart. The event is held to collect frozen turkeys, which will be used for the Thanksgiving Day dinner at the Salvation Army.

Canning said whoever donates a turkey will receive a free Christmas CD donated from the House FM radio station and will also be entered in a drawing for a Kicker amphitheater iPhone or iPad dock.