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Student-led program aiding local low-income families

Published 11/30/18

Lorance Washington

TNE Writer

Students who are looking to get involved with NSU organizations and make a positive impact on the Tahlequah community have the opportunity to get involved with the Cherokee County angel tree. The Cherokee County angel tree is an annual holiday assistance program that is designed to aid low-income families throughout the holiday season by providing gifts to children or “angels” in need. Families are able to enroll their children into the program in hopes of receiving clothes and gifts that they may not have been able to provide for the holidays.

“The Cherokee County angel tree is an organization where we collect gifts from sponsors and donators to give to children in need,” said Alexis Mateo-Merck, Checotah freshman and volunteer outreach chair. “I chose to help put on this program because I was a child in need, and I wished that angel tree was around when I was growing up so I could get gifts for me and my family.”

A small committee of NSU students who lead angel tree through a five-step process runs the angel tree program. This process includes angel enrollment, tag distribution, fundraising, gift collection and gift distribution. The committee begins planning the entire program in late September and finishes before the start of winter break. This year, angel tree will provide gifts for about 900 angels in Cherokee County.

“There are about 900 angels this year,” said Allyson Neep, Henryetta freshman and community engagement chair. “Knowing that there are that many kids that we are going to be helping definitely inspires us to pour a lot of our hard work and a lot of our heart into this program just to make sure that each child has the best Christmas ever.”

After enrollment, the angel’s preferences and clothing sizes are listed on a tag and then distributed to different businesses and places in the community for people to pick out. Students, faculty and several student-led organizations participate in angel tree by adopting tags and providing gifts for the angels. While tags are out in the community, the planning committee arranges a variety of fundraisers to earn money for tags that may not be picked up. Businesses like Buffalo Wild Wings and RibCrib organize giveback nights to aid the program.

“We will have fundraising nights throughout the community so students can attend those and help us raise money,” said Michael Payne, coordinator of orientation and community engagement. “We’re looking to have them so people can go in, order food, and a portion of the bill goes to Cherokee county angel tree.”

Gifts are collected from the time tags are distributed until the gift return deadline, which is Nov. 28. After the deadline, the planning committee along with volunteers organizes all of the gifts before gift distribution, which takes place on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8.

“There’s multiple avenues to get involved with the Cherokee County angel tree,” said Robbie Argo, Pawnee senior and organization chair. “Whether that be through fundraising fiscally to put money forth to our goal of $5,000 so the kids that may not get picked up and get gifts, we can go buy gifts for with that money. They can simply donate manpower and come help organize gifts and work the week of angel tree gift return.”

Students who would like to get involved with the program will have multiple opportunities to help by volunteering. The planning committee will need volunteers to help organize all of the gifts from Nov. 29 to Dec. 6. after all of the gifts have been returned. Students can also volunteer on one of the two distribution days on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8. The 2018 Cherokee County angel tree program will conclude after the final distribution day on Dec. 8.

For more information on how to volunteer, email Michael Payne at

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