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2018 Angel Tree

Laken Johnson, a dental technician with the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Dental Clinic, and her sons Carter, 10, Korbin, 6, and Logan, 1, donate gifts to the Voluntary Service Angel Tree program.
Laken Johnson, a dental technician with the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Dental Clinic, and her sons Carter, 10, Korbin, 6, and Logan, 1, donate gifts to the Voluntary Service Angel Tree program.

The holiday season can be magical for parents. Watching the joy that their children experience this time of year can be a wonderful gift, but for some low-income Veterans, this season can be full of anxiety that they may not be able to provide for their families.

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Voluntary Service hosted its annual angel tree toy drive to help those families experience the joy of the holidays. Overall, more than 200 angels were adopted at Charleston VAMC, with 122 of them adopted by VA employees.

This is the first year the VAMC Angel Tree program was open for employees to sponsor children. Donations tripled the value of last year’s campaign, totaling more than $16,000 in monetary value for donated gifts.

Most importantly, the Veterans gained the peace of mind that their children would be able to receive holiday gifts this year.

“I’m going through a rough patch right now,” said Paisley Hamm, a U.S. Navy Veteran. “This was a blessing for me and my children. They wouldn’t have had half of what I got from the VA if it wasn’t for this.”

Charleston VAMC social workers refer Veterans who may need assistance providing gifts for their children to the angel tree program for support.

“I feel like they care,” said Hamm. “There’s people that are really going through things, and to get a blessing like this is just amazing to them. Thank you for blessing us.”

On top of the donations Voluntary Service received from the angel tree program, another 100 toys were delivered from Porter-Gaud School’s annual holiday toy drive. The school has a strong tie to the local VA medical center, and routinely donates time and items to help local Veterans.

“Our students are always honoring our Veterans, and it’s always repeated to them to never forget,” said Gretchen Tate, science teacher and director of community service for Porter-Gaud. “Even if they served over 40 years ago, we will never forget.”

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