Better to give

Adoptions now open for district angel program


AJ Jackson

Angels are now available for adoption; gifts are due on Dec. 7.

Children’s cheers filled the room at the elementary school as Faith Johnke carried heavy boxes of toys, gifts and necessities donated by students, parents, staff and alumni all across LISD. 

“They’re so happy and it made me happy just to be able to see that,” Johnke recalled. ”We are helping them even if it’s just some weeks that we put in. It’s worth it for sure.” 

Now a senior and president of StuCo, Johnke leads the Lewisville ISD’s Adopt An Angel gift program, helping families who are financially struggling and cannot afford to buy gifts for their children. These children, called Angels, are adopted by other people who fulfill their Christmas wishes. Adoptions began last week and will continue until all angels are adopted or until Dec. 7 when the gifts are due. 

“There’s nothing that’s required [for counselors to place students on the adoption list],” student activities director Allison Stamey said. “A lot of times parents are laid off, or they don’t have a large income, or they aren’t able to help.” 

The program was started in 2002 by Stamey, who has been working at the school for 28 years. Though it originally only served students in the LHS feeder pattern, it’s been expanded to serve the entire district. Around 3,300 angel names were submitted this year. Ages for the gift program range from newborn to 19. 

“The numbers grow each year,” Stamey said. “Especially now with the economy and the shape it’s in right now.”

Although the number of angels grows every year, donors are what keep the program going. Donations to the program can be made through Venmo, Zelle, check or cash to the Lewisville High School Activities Booster Club. Stamey said when people donate to the angel fund, “they’re donating to help LISD students.” So any leftover money that sits and waits until the next Christmas can also go to families struggling with certain circumstances. 

“This is where our angel program comes into play to help before they get their actual help,” Stamey said. “We get them on their feet. And that helps a lot too.”

High inflation is a concern for this year’s program as Stamey knows it could impact the number of donors.

“We’re just going to do what we can and hope to continue to get donations,” Stamey said. “You know, families that were doing very well a few years ago aren’t doing well now.”

Forms are submitted to a Google doc by school counselors after parents have filled out the form given to them. Children receive their own angel number to ensure all angel names stay private. Community members can go to the website to adopt the angels, purchase the items on their list, and deliver the unwrapped gifts to the Valley Creek Church Next Steps Center.

“We have a system where we make sure that every child will get the gifts that they want,” Stamey said. “So we get [additional] donations from the community, and with that funding, we go purchase the gifts.” 

Around 50 to 70 people show up daily to the Valley Creek Next Steps Center warehouse to help wrap presents for the kids. The gift-wrapping process lasts from Nov. 29 until Dec.12. The gifts are then delivered to schools on Dec. 13. 

“We get help from our school mainly,” Johnke said. “But we also have an advisory board where I did communicate to the other schools that they can volunteer.” 

While working on this project, students learn the importance of organization. A big part of the program is using spreadsheets and learning how to be thorough, because a single mistake can mess up the entire process. 

“Every single group of students I’ve ever had walk out of here are better people because of this angel program,” Stamey said. “And they’re not only learning to give, they are learning how to run a business.” 

StuCo LISD liaison Jacob Taylor and other volunteers will process the gifts to their respective anonymous angels. 

“I took all the gifts to go check them in the front,” Taylor said. ”And then at the back, it’s my job to make sure they’re going in the right bags and we separate them into the right schools. So when it’s delivery day, we have just the bags that are going to the schools all together, so it’s easier.” 

The gift delivery deadline of Dec. 7 also gives Stamey and her team a chance to check the list and provide for any angels who were adopted but didn’t receive gifts.

“People adopt and then they don’t come through,” Stamey said. “It’s very rare, but it happens. Maybe 20 of them don’t come in, but out of thousands that’s OK.” 

Many angels will be adopted by individuals or families, but groups, teams and organizations will also combine to adopt as well. The network of volunteers to help wrap can number in the hundreds. Although the entire process can be a challenging one, it can also be rewarding. 

“It’s one of the best feelings you have just knowing you supply this many kids with the gifts,” Taylor said. “It’s a lot of people and just knowing that they had a better Christmas because of you, since you went out of your way to give the time and effort to make sure they had a better day.”