Concordia University Wisconsin’s longtime tradition delivers gifts and Christmas joy to students at St. Martini Lutheran School in Milwaukee.
It’s such a small thing, really. Buying a gift, or a few small gifts, for a child who’s probably not going to get everything they want for Christmas this year. It doesn’t take that much money or effort.
But it means SO much.
“These are children who often won’t have a Christmas at home – at least not the way we know it,” says long-time Angel Tree participant Bill Wood, CUW’s director of finance. “So what an opportunity we have to make it special for them!”
A Christmas Tradition
Every Christmas season, the Campus Ministry team at CUW puts up an “Angel Tree” in the Chapel of Christ Triumphant. It is decorated not with traditional ornaments, but paper angels—each of which represents a child at St. Martini Lutheran School in Milwaukee. Each angel lists the child’s first name, age, grade, and a short wish list of gifts they’d like for Christmas. Members of the CUW community by claiming an angel and buying gifts for that child.
Bill and his wife, Rose, take part every year, typically grabbing not one, but four angels off the tree—“two boys and two girls,” he says. “Because the joy that we get might even exceed the joy that the child gets. It’s such a great feeling for us to know that we helped somebody who needs it.”
“The Angel Tree program is such a blessing to St. Martini students,” says Principal Jordan Eggleson of St. Martini Lutheran School. “Seeing the joy on students’ faces when they open their gifts is priceless. We are so thankful for the generosity of Concordia University!”
Megan Reinke (’24), an early childhood and elementary education major, is a co-leader, along with Payton Goldbold (’23), of the CUW Children’s Ministry team that organizes the Angel Tree each year. Even though she’s new to the position, and the program was limited last year because of COVID-19, Megan already has a good sense of the impact that Concordians coming together can make on kids such as those at St. Martini.
“I think it’s just cool to see the Concordia students step up, and be willing put a smile on these kids’ faces when they get a present,” she says. “And that’s what I’m looking forward to the most, is that interaction with the children, especially since we haven’t been able to do that in a while, because of COVID.”
Angels in our Midst
This year, 180 gift angel “ornaments” were sent from St. Martini, Megan says. That’s well over the tree’s capacity, so the angels are refreshed periodically, as needed. Also, new this year is an Angel Tree in Patrick T. Ferry Hall (formerly the Pharmacy Building).
“We were were approached by two Pharmacy students who wanted to put some of the angels on a tree in the school of Pharmacy, as well,” Megan explained.
Every year, the CUW community comes through, making sure that none of the children submitting angel ornaments goes without a gift. Nonetheless, that doesn’t stop generous people like Rose Wood from worrying, just a little bit.
“My wife is always concerned that I’m leaving angels on the tree, and someone’s not going to get a gift,” Bill says. “And I try to explain to her, ‘I promise you, Honey, someone is going to take that angel!’”
Is that somebody going to be you? There’s still time to take part, if you haven’t already. Why not take a stroll over to the Chapel, and take a look at the tree in the back with the paper angels on it. Isn’t there one that tugs at your heartstrings? (Gifts need to be wrapped and in the Chapel by Friday, Dec. 10.)
“I think if someone did just go one time and read some of the angels, read some of the messages that the children write,” Bill says. “I can’t believe they wouldn’t want to help, they wouldn’t want to do this.”
After all, it’s such a small thing to do. And it makes such a big impact.
— This story is written by Mike Zimmerman, corporate communications manager for Concordia University Wisconsin. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-4380.
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