LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The idea of a child waking up Christmas morning without a present under the tree is not one anybody would relish or hope for.
That fear is what motivates groups like the Salvation Army to help families that may not be able to afford gifts for their kids.
One of the means of that assistance is the Angel Tree program, which allows the public to “sponsor” a child by purchasing a tag to attach to gifts that will go to that child for Christmas.
Unfortunately, this year the Angel Tree program ended with a lot of tags unclaimed, roughly 1,400 left when it came to a close.
The thought of 1,400 kids potentially receiving no presents for the holidays is one Kelsey Malicote could not stand for. She needed to do something to help, so she asked for helped.
“I just put out the call and asked people for help and they’re showing up,” Malicote said.
“Originally, we thought 70 and then we thought 1,000 but it was 1,400. That’s a lot of kids. That’s a lot of Christmas.”
This is the third year Malicote has helped the Salvation Army take care of the final tags, but she admitted this year’s need is on a completely different scale.
Malicote took to social media, using her Instagram following to recruit volunteers to help fill these tags.
The result was about 20 people coming in to help organize what would be a weekend filled bagging and tagging.
Malicote helped set up Amazon Wish Lists and a Venmo account for people to donate.
It led to enough money and toy contributions to fill more than 1,000 of the 1,400 unclaimed tags in just a couple days.
“As shipments are coming in, we’re just grabbing tags. We’ve got them all spread out over the table. We’re just filling bags as we go and just crossing our fingers and praying,” Malicote said.
Volunteers like Chase Coleman appreciate how far the group has come in a short amount of time.
However, he knows there is still work to be done and encourages the rest of the community to do their part.
“Each year, unfortunately, the need has grown this year appears to be a pretty daunting task,” Coleman said.
“There’s still need that is out there. We’re still looking to have a few more children sponsored so if there’s anyone that is looking to help, all the help is necessary and all the help is wanted.”
The help is a labor of love and emotion for Malicote.
Everything goes back to bridging a gap in the road to allow the holiday spirit to spread to every single child come Christmas morning.
“A lot of people I love have been on that tree. A lot. People in my own family and people I love very much and it was a big deal for them. It’s a big deal for us,” Malicote said.
If anyone wants to help the cause to get last few hundred tags filled, you can send donations to @themalicotes on Venmo.
Malicote also encourages anyone to send donations directly to the Salvation Army.