Honoring a father’s legacy through giving; Angel Tree Project brings joy to needy families

2017 file photo of packages being delivered to needy families through the Angel Tree Project, St. George, Utah, Dec. 18, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Mariah Baumgartle, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Fire engines from all over Utah will set off to make their way through a dozen towns during the week of Christmas loaded with gifts, stockings, food and gift cards, bringing Christmas to struggling families through the Angel Tree Project.

The Washington City Fire Department gathers to make deliveries to needy families, Washington City, Utah, Dec. 22, 2017 | File photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The project launched in 2014 to help two families and has continued to grow since.

This year, 26 families will have some of their wants and needs met on Christmas as a result of donations and the efforts of nearly a dozen Utah fire departments – six of which are located in Washington County – along with two police departments.

Twenty angel trees have been set up in fire departments across Utah, including the Santa Clara/Ivins, St. George, Washington City, Hurricane, New Harmony, Central, Salina, Draper City, Hanksville EMS, Richfield, South Jordan and West Jordan fire departments, as well as at the Santa Clara/Ivins and Washington City police departments.

These elaborately decorated trees include tags indicating the needs and wants of families. Tags are taken by firefighters, their families and community members.

List of departments participating in Angel Tree Project on background image by Bunditinay/iStock/Getty Images Plus St. George News

Once the angel tag is pulled from the tree, those items are purchased using donations from fire personnel and the community. The gifts are then wrapped and prepared for delivery. Each family also receives gift cards to cover any other needs they might have during the holidays.

Over the course of a week, the donated gifts are delivered to each home on fire engines with sirens blaring and lights flashing to alert the coming of Santa Claus, with each fire department taking a different day.

This will be the first year that Central Fire Department, located at 155 E Center St., is participating in the effort, and the department has raised nearly $1,200 of the $2,500 goal so far, Central’s Fire Chief Steve Haluska told St. George News.

Hanksville EMS Fire Department in Wayne County is also new to the program this year.

The Washington City Police Department also contributes to the Angel Tree Project by collecting donations from each officer who elects to grow a beard starting Oct. 1 and running through Dec. 1, when they return to work clean-shaven. Participating officers donate their own money as well as funds donated by the community to the project in a show of support.

Last year the department collected nearly $1,500, which helped with the gift card purchases.

Kindness and hope in the wake of tragedy – The Angel Tree Project

The Angel Tree Project started as a small program at the Santa Clara Fire Department in 2014 after tragedy struck a family with a long history of firefighting service.

Kurtis Lake, who served as a firefighter for 26 years, died of a heart attack 13 days before Christmas in 2014.

His daughter, Krystle Lake, a firefighter and EMT with Santa Clara Fire at the time, was on one of the fire trucks that responded to the call for help, not knowing until she arrived that it was her father who died after more than an hour of CPR.

Kurtis Lake was known for going all out with Christmas lights on his family’s house each year. He would then match the price of his home’s steep holiday power bill to spend on a family in need.

After her father’s death, Krystle Lake was facing a hefty ambulance and doctor bill for Kurtis Lake’s medical expenses, and she contacted medical services hoping to work out a payment plan for the bills she could not afford to pay outright.

Instead, she said, they insisted on covering the bill on her family’s behalf.

List of Angel Tree Ptroject sponsors on background image by Eskimar/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Inspired by this act of kindness and her father’s spirit of giving, she said she decided to start the Angel Tree Project.

“This is truly in honor of him and keeping his Christmas spirit alive.”

The program would not be possible without the generosity of numerous community businesses and individuals, offering a spirit of giving that has been vital to the program’s success and growth.

For more information regarding the Angel Tree Project and donations, go to the organization’s Facebook page.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.


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