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Angel Tree exposes a compassionate community

An angel hangs on the Buckley Angel Tree in the Exchange Nov. 30, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The Angel Tree is a program set up by the Buckley Spouses Group and Buckley First Sergeants Council that helps Airmen and their families provide gifts for their children when finances are tight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski/Released)

An angel hangs on the Buckley Angel Tree in the Exchange Nov. 30, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The Angel Tree is a program set up by the Buckley Spouses Group and Buckley First Sergeants Council that helps Airmen and their families provide gifts for their children when finances are tight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski/Released)

The Buckley Angel Tree stands in the Exchange for the holiday season Nov. 30, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.  The Angel Tree is a program set up by the Buckley Spouses Group and Buckley First Sergeants Council that helps Airmen and their families provide gifts for their children when finances are tight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski/Released)

The Buckley Angel Tree stands in the Exchange for the holiday season Nov. 30, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The Angel Tree is a program set up by the Buckley Spouses Group and Buckley First Sergeants Council that helps Airmen and their families provide gifts for their children when finances are tight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As the holiday season begins, many people begin to feel stress by the financial toll that buying gifts can bring. Although the holidays are meant to be a time to celebrate family and friends, it can become overwhelming.

The Angel Tree is a program set up by the Buckley Spouses Group and Buckley First Sergeants that helps Airmen and their families provide gifts for their children when finances are tight.

"The Angel Tree program is a shared venture between the First-Sergeants and Buckley's Spouses Group," said Chief Master Sgt. Brian Kruzelnick, 460th Space Wing command chief. "They've taken it upon themselves to ensure every child has a present under the tree. Every tag on the Angel Tree represents the ability to ensure that no military child is forgotten during this time of year, regardless of the financial situation of the family. As service members we sacrifice every day, but it's these times of selflessness for each other that shows the true fraternity of the military and what we do."        

A tree is placed in front of The Exchange and decorated with angels that have the age and gender of a child in need of a holiday gift. In order to help, personnel must take an angel from the tree and buy a toy along with an outfit for the child. Then, they must place the gifts with the angel in a collection basket, which will then be given to the child on Christmas morning by their family member.

"It's an awesome program that's another way to make sure nobody gets left behind during the holiday season," said Master Sgt. Troy Drasher, 2nd Space Warning Squadron first sergeant. "We use one of our fundraisers hand in hand with the Buckley Spouses Group to make the Angel Tree a reality. We collecte all the names and use an anonymous spreadsheet which is then given to the spouses group. Once the gifts have been donated, the Buckley Spouses Group, along with the first sergeants, get together at the chapel to sort and assign the gifts to the family in need."

With over a hundred children supplied with gifts from the program last year, the support for the program has been phenomenal.

"As the pile began to grow in grow in my dining room from collected donations, I was blown away from how generous people are in this community," said Lindsey Kindt, member of the Buckley Spouses Group.

Kindt recalled a donation from last year where a preacher had brought a truck full of toys to be given out to children of Buckley service members.

"He said 'do you have a couple of dollies that we can use?' and I said 'How much do you guys have?' and he said 'Well we have a truck full.'"

Astonished by the donation, Kindt, along with the preacher, proceeded to unload the truck of its contents and, while doing so, Kindt learned of the woman who had donated all of the toys.

The preacher told Kindt she does this in memory of her three children that died in a plane crash.

"It is so humbling to see people continually give," Kindt said. "A year later it still chokes me up. It is a fantastic community and this is a great opportunity to give back to the people that need support and to witness how compassionate the people of this community can be. Buckley's Spouses Group is very proud to be a part of it. This doesn't financial help our program at all but it is the most important event we hold each year."

The Angel Tree will go up Nov. 25 and be taken down Dec. 17.

Applications to receive gifts for children can be acquired by either going to the first sergeant or by stopping by the chapel. Once an application is filled out, it can be returned to the first sergeant or the chapel by Dec. 11. All applications are anonymous, so the name of the person requesting help will remain unknown to respect their dignity.

"Hard times won't discriminate and eventually it finds us all," Kruzelnick said. "There are times when you might find yourself in need of a little assistance. It's at these times when programs like the Angel Tree are truly a blessing. It gives us an opportunity to show what being a family, a military family, is all about.  It gives us the honor to help lighten a fellow service member's burden and bring joy to a household that might have gone without."                  
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