Campus Joins in Holiday-Season Giving with Annual Angel Tree

November 14, 2017 at 10:54 am

The University of South Carolina Upstate community is once again working to ensure that local foster children will awaken Christmas morning to plenty of presents under their Christmas trees.

USC Upstate began its Angel Tree program in 1995, when the Olin B. Sansbury, Jr. Campus Life Center opened, according to Dr. Khrystal Smith, assistant dean of students and director of student life. Since its inception, the tree has been sponsored by the student-led service organization IMPACT, which stands for Involvement with Members to be Positive Advocates for the Community through Teamwork.

Smith said the University partners with the state Department of Social Services, which provides the names of children in the state’s foster care system. The USC Upstate community has adopted as many as 200 angels in a single holiday season, according to Smith, but the number of angels available varies depending how many names are supplied by DSS. She said the 25 names the University has received thus far this year have all been adopted, and there are currently people waiting for additional angel names to come from the state.

In addition to bringing joy to children at Christmastime, the Angel Tree program provides IMPACT members with a valuable opportunity to forge a bond with the larger community.

“It can be overwhelming to jump into a new community that you’ve never been in before,” said Allison Ryan, graduate assistant for volunteer services. “This is a good introduction to the Spartanburg community and to what the needs are within the Spartanburg community.”

The Angel Tree also gives the entire campus community an opportunity to help some of the Upstate’s youngest residents.

“The Angel Tree program is an opportunity for the IMPACT organization to create an avenue for faculty, staff and students, and other members of our campus community to support the larger community,” Smith said. “As an institution, we know that is a very important value – being involved, being engaged in the larger community and helping to create opportunities for our students to get plugged in.”

IMPACT members work with Volunteer Services to create a catalog of children’s wish lists; when someone adopts an angel, the adopter is given only the child’s first name, age and gender, in addition to the child’s wish list. Both individuals and groups are welcome to adopt an angel, and students often work together to buy gifts for adopted angels, Ryan said.

“Typically, students will go in together,” Ryan said, “so a lot of student organizations will adopt one or two. Classes, student organizations or groups of students will get together to adopt the angels.”

“This is one way that everybody can be involved in supporting members of our communities who may not have certain things as they approach the holiday season,” Smith said. “It’s our way to be able to contribute to the youth of the Spartanburg community.”

For anyone who wishes to adopt an angel when more become available, Nov. 29 is the deadline to bring your new, unwrapped gifts to Volunteer Services. All gifts will be checked in-house, Smith said, then DSS will pick them up and distribute them to the foster children. Currently, there is a waiting list to adopt an angel; to be placed on the waiting list, please contact Volunteer Services.