BOZEMAN, Mont. - It can be tough to celebrate Christmas when you don't have the money to provide for your family. It's why the Salvation Army is helping to make the holidays a little brighter for those less fortunate. We went to Bozeman's Salvation Army to find out what their annual Angel Tree program is all about.
When Marlene Faught signed up for Angel Tree, she expected a one small gift for each of her daughters- just a little something to put under the tree this Christmas. What she received nearly brought her to tears.
"I am beside myself. I did not expect 100-percent of this...This is beyond my wildest dreams," smiles Faught.
It will be Faught's daughters' first Christmas in Montana. They just moved to Bozeman from Tennessee. With the gifts and unexpected box of food from the Salvation Army, Faught tells us, it will be a very merry Christmas after all.
"The turkey. I mean the turkey is...Wow!" exclaims Faught.
Teresa tells us Christmas for her family is about spending time together, eating, praying and giving thanks. With the help of the Salvation Army, she'll be able to put gifts under the tree for her son. Teresa calls the organization an arm of God.
"My son is happy when he opens the toys," says Teresa.
290 families signed up for Angel Tree, averaging three children per family. Children under 14 and seniors over 65 get two presents apiece. That's more than 1,500 gifts.
"It's less than last year which is great. It means that people are getting back on their feet but, even if we had more, we'd try to fill them all," says Bozeman Salvation Army Lt. Niki Woollin.
Angel Tree is a Christmas gift distribution program for families that can't afford food and gifts for the holiday. Once applicants are verified, the information is put on a tree at the Gallatin Valley mall. Shoppers can then take that information to buy gifts for the families.
"When we get all the toys back, we assemble them into families and people drive up and get their stuff and, hopefully, with any luck, they don't even have to get out of their car," explains Woollin.
Families also receive a box of food from the Gallatin Valley Food Bank and at least one article of clothing for the kids.
"I wanted to help!"
Aurora Baker is one of the volunteers helping to make Angel Tree gift distribution run smoothly. She tells us when she heard the Salvation Army needed volunteers, she wanted to help.
"It makes them feel happy and joyful. Most of the time, they don't really get gifts so, that's why I wanted to help today," explains Baker.
It makes the holidays a little brighter for folks like Faught.
"This is going to be a wonderful Christmas," says Faught.
Organizers tell us they had to buy a few extra toys and items for their food box. If you'd like to help, you can donate to any one of the Salvation Army's kettles.
Monday, those families who didn't realize they needed help can come in to get a gift.