The Angel Project
By Ellie Bruan-Haley
I held onto the hand of my shivering granddaughter as we waited our turn to get into the huge barn-like building. We couldn’t see inside because of the length of our line and so we passed our time watching the other line-ups.
Volunteers were busily placing frozen turkeys into bags at the head of one line, and in the other families and individuals were receiving milk.
The parking lot was filled with trucks and cars and still more waiting to get onto the lot. Strangely, though vehicles were blocked, no one honked nor appeared impatient. It seemed surreal as though everyone had been touched by something magical.
Finally we could see into the building and I was overcome with emotion as my eyes took in hundreds of overflowing boxes. Each box filled with care represented not only hours or time on the part of volunteers, but the generosity and caring of hundreds of people. The boxes were filled with food for empty stomachs. Some boxes sported brand new toys, gifts from anonymous individuals throughout the town and area, toys for children who might otherwise go without.
I suddenly felt self-conscious, aware that tears were flowing freely down my cheeks. I was touched by the display of kindness. I turned away from the crowds of people to wipe away the tears, and just as I did I was to see everything in a kind of mist and glow-like appearance. How fitting to see the “Angel Project” in this way.
It was four days before Christmas and today marked the climax of the “Angel Project.” This was the day that families in need could pick up food hampers and toys. Everything was donated through the generosity of strangers.
Finally it was our turn at the table and I found it difficult to speak past the lump in my throat. I was overwhelmed by all that was happening around me. Every box in that massive room represented the love of others. Every toy had been carefully selected to be given away, yet the receiver and the sender would never meet.
Instead of Christmas shopping or cleaning, instead of baking cookies and decorating a tree, these people had dropped everything to sort, label and number boxes, and to hand out delivery addresses to volunteers to drop off boxes for those who had no transportation.
I could feel something extraordinary there in that building. It wasn’t tangible or quite definable but there was something special, beyond friendliness and I felt privileged to be there and be a part of it all.
People helped us pack the trunk and back seat of my car with food and toys for the first family and we set off to locate the address. As we drove along I felt blessed to have a tank full of gas and the opportunity to be among the delivery people in the “Angel Project.” Jani, my granddaughter, had arrived from British Columbia for a visit and when I had suggested that we participate as volunteers in this annual event, she grinned and said, “Yes, let’s do it.”
I was not prepared for the greeting we were about to receive. I located a basement suite and when no one answered after ringing the bell I ventured down a set of steps and began calling out, “Hello, is anyone home?” A lady opened a door and as soon as I mentioned who I was and why I was there the woman began to shout. She was overjoyed and was calling out to some unseen person that we were there. Next, she ran ahead of me up the stairs calling out to a neighbor, “They’re here, they’re here, the Angel people are here.”
She ran up to the car, out there in the snow with only socks on her feet and began thanking us. She continued to thank us with each box we unpacked and though we gently reminded her that we were only the delivery people, she could not contain her joy and she continued thanking us again and again.
At the second house there were young children and when we introduced ourselves and explained why were there, the children were sent upstairs and were admonished not to peek. I knew then that what we were about to unload might very well be the total sum of their Christmas presents.
Jani carried in the teddy bears, the huge craft set and the two other toys, all of which had been specifically chosen by “Angel Project” volunteers for these children. The mother helped me with the heavier food boxes and I knew this abundant supply would last a number of days.
As we left we exchanged “Merry Christmas” greetings. The woman paused just before the door closed. She looked directly at me and her eyes looked misty as she said “Thank you, so much.”
I shut my car door, fighting tears and choked up feeling. This giant rush of emotion burst inside me as I pictured those children on Christmas morning opening the wonderful gifts chosen by strangers. I could imagine tummies filled with good meals throughout the season. All this, because generous individuals opened their hearts and purse strings for people they did not know.
For Jani and I, we got to spend a special day together being a part of something beautiful and unforgettable. And though we were only delivery people that day, the feeling I experienced was that of being the one who had received the gift.