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Usually, we hang ornaments on the Christmas tree, but have you ever considered taking one off?

The annual Angel Tree program is officially underway, giving donors the opportunity to provide a merry Christmas for a military child in need, right here aboard NAS Patuxent River.

“The Angel Tree program is for active-duty military with an E-6 rating or below,” explained Pax River Chaplain Ken Amador. “We use our chief community to determine need. They’ll find the names of Sailors who, for whatever reason, require a little extra help providing gifts for their children this Christmas season. It includes any child up to 18 years old, still living at home.”

Each blue and pink angel ornament that adorns the tree is numbered and each number correlates to an individual child. The only person on base to know the children’s identities is Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Harrald who coordinates the angel ornaments.

Harrald has facilitated the program for the past three years and it has special meaning for him.

“When I was a kid, the same thing was done for me,” he said. “We were poor and my mom took advantage of the Angel Tree through the Salvation Army. I always had my own presents on Christmas.”

The angels include the child’s gender, age and three gift wishes. Clothing sizes will be noted, if required.

“Participants will choose their pink or blue angel from the tree and then fill out the white angel behind with their own contact information name, address, phone number, email and the number of the angel they chose,” Amador said. “That helps us track the angels taken.”

According to Juanita Hagan, Navy Exchange softlines department manager, the white angel is then deposited in a secure box located in the Nex’s customer service area.

All gifts should be bagged together with their identifying angel placed on the outside and delivered to the Religious Programs Office by December 1, where volunteers will wrap the gifts and ensure they are delivered to the correct child. Donors remain anonymous.

Eighty to 100 angels normally decorate the tree each year and wishes requested include anything from games, CDs, dolls and books to more expensive bicycles and electronics.

“People have been generous,” Amador said. “Every angel is usually taken. Some people take two or three angels at one time. But keep checking the tree through the month of November to make sure we don’t miss anyone.”

The Angel Tree can be found on display at the entrance to the Nex. Detailed program instructions are provided nearby.