Posted on Dec 09, 2020
Above, Connie Parker, left, accepts gifts from Rotary Club of Mineral Wells members for a boy and a girl being served by this year's Tommy's Angel Tree project. Presenting the gifts are club President Tonya Gary, center, and program chair Connie Ball.
Tommy’s Angel Tree is one of the great community projects anywhere, providing Christmas to less fortunate Mineral Wells-area boys and girls who otherwise might have no presents to open that special morning since 1992.
It takes a community to make it happen.
“I couldn’t do this without the community’s help,” one of Tommy’s Angel Tree Guardians Connie Parker told members of Rotary Club of Mineral Wells attending Wednesday’s meeting.
Connie is the primary force behind the annual gift-giving drive, helping coordinate sign-ups, putting up the angel trees and overseeing wrapping, bagging and delivery-day logistics.
Connie has been doing it from the beginning. She is the sister-in-law of the late Tommy Parker, a Mineral Wells police officer and volunteer firefighter who on Nov. 5, 1992, died while helping battle a house fire. For two years prior to that, Tommy on his own made special efforts to provide Christmas gifts to local children he knew would not otherwise have a Christmas. The first year, he saw a family in need and scrambled to collect gifts for them. That is how it began.
In fact, that first Tommy’s angel eventually came back and volunteered wrapping presents until she married and moved away. However, a few years ago she came back to town and made sure she returned to help with the project.
From its early beginnings, the project served a few dozen children. Then 100, 300 and more – each year’s numbers often reflective of the ups and downs of the economy. In good years, fewer children would be served. In down years, much more. In 2009, at the beginning of the decade-long economic crash, nearly 900 children’s names were on the pink and blue cards crammed onto Angel Trees placed around town. There are strict guidelines and screening of applications during the sign up periods.
This year, 390 children will receive gifts that were shopped for by people and groups that picked their cards from the single tree placed this year at Wal-Mart. For angels not selected, Angel Tree volunteers go shopping for them using donated monies. The children accepted each year are assigned a number, and the cards include their ages, clothing and shoe sizes and what items they would like to receive.
Last weekend, some 45 motorcyclists conducting their annual Tommy’s Toy Ride rode in with $4,000 in monetary donations and gifts.
Connie sees to it that every child on the tree receives something. The project also receives a number of bicycles and tricycles that go out to many of the boys and girls. This year there are enough bikes and trikes to go some who didn’t request one.
Each year, in honor of her brother-in-law, Connie selects her own anonymous family she personally provides for.
Rotary Club of Mineral Wells selected two angels – a boy and a girl – to provide for. Secretary Dianne Templar did the shopping and those gifts were handed over to Connie on Wednesday.
The Angel Tree will come down this Saturday, and beginning next Monday evening, volunteers will begin wrapping gifts every evening at the Steve Perdue Training Center, 300 South Oak Avenue, one block south of the downtown fire station.
Then, delivery of the gifts begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19, at the training center. Members of the community are invited to help wrap and deliver. Simply go to the training center, mask up and go in. You will even be fed if hungry.