BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - This year's Angel Tree drive kicked off Monday to the sound of horns and a parade of people marching through Edgewater Mall. Little angels with wings and halos led the procession of Salvation Army workers and community leaders to the Angel Tree display.
Once they arrived, a melodic choir of tiny voices greeted them with Christmas classics. Soon after, the ribbon was cut and the angel tree was lit.
Those who came out arrived eager to make dreams come true for little ones in need across South Mississippi.
"It makes me feel good, because I have kids and grandkids. I want all kids to be happy and have a good Christmas," said Violet Willis of Gulfport.
The Salvation Army has already registered more than 5,000 children, surpassing last year's number. With the need even greater than before, the Towner family came ready to do its part to give back.
"I think it's a great thing, and I think more people should get involved if they can," said mother Stephanie Towner.
Lieutenant Benjamin Duele with the Salvation Army said, "It's very important for us to get these children [angels] off the trees and into a family's possession so they can buy gifts for these children."
Duele said Salvation Army workers and volunteers who see first-hand the impact of these heart-felt gifts believe it's something you'll never forget.
"That morning on distribution day, the mothers kneel before you, they get their gifts and they just cry. They just can't believe their children are going to have a great Christmas. It's a blessing. It really is," Duele said.
To support a little South Mississippi angel in need, just stop by the Edgewater Mall display. You can also visit other stores across South Mississippi like Walmart, PJ's Coffee House and Gulfport Premium Outlets (formerly the Prime Outlets at Gulfport) to pick up an angel. Besides stores, some churches and apartment complexes are also participating.
The deadline for the Angel Tree drive is December 15th.
The Salvation Army is also trying to make it a Merry Christmas for senior citizens across South Mississippi. Seniors ages 65 and older can stop by the Salvation Army's Gulfport or Pascagoula offices on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through December 10th to sign up for a gift. Seniors must have proof of residency and a valid photo ID when they sign up.