Salvation Army Major James Lloyd has seen more than his share of kindness, but even he was amazed last Christmas season by the sight of nine preschool children enthusiastically participating in the annual “Angel Tree” gift drive.
“Here they were, preschool children taking tags off an Angel Tree outside of Target at Bellis Fair, then later each returning with a gift for another 4-year-old child,” Lloyd says with a smile.
Lloyd considers the program an ideal way for instructors and parents to teach young children about charity.
In the Angel Tree program, organized by Lloyd’s wife, Beverley, tags with the names and ages of children from low-income families are taken by people of all ages, to be returned with an age-appropriate gift by no later than Dec. 20. The Lloyds make sure no child goes without a gift.
About 30 of trees are put up in Whatcom County after Thanksgiving, so families who would like to receive gifts for their children need to act quickly.
“People in need should sign up with us as soon as possible,” Lloyd says.
Lloyd, 48, is administrator of the Bellingham Salvation Army, based at 2912 Northwest Ave., not far from the Salvation Army thrift store at 1515 Birchwood Ave. It’s the only American Salvation Army branch north of Snohomish County.
“I’m in my fifth year in Bellingham,” says Lloyd, who previously worked in Oregon and California. “Our social services director, Cathy Dearman, has over 25 years of experience here and we have a staff of six and many, many volunteers. I don’t know what we would do without all of them.”
The Salvation Army is a Christian organization, but will help anyone in need, Lloyd says.
“We act out of our love for God, but we don’t push our religion on anybody,” he says.
Along with the Angel Tree effort, an annual kettle drive and a Thanksgiving week dinner open to everyone are the Salvation Army’s other major holiday activities. Lloyd says Whatcom residents are especially generous during the kettle drive. Last year, the drive raised $172,000.
This year’s Thanksgiving week dinner will be the third annual meal.
“We were giving out food boxes, which we still do at Christmas, when we decided a dinner would be better,” Lloyd says.
Last year’s meal attracted 150 people for food and fellowship. Lloyd, his wife, and their children, Emily, who will be 18 on Nov. 27, and Daniel, 16, a Salvation Army and school tuba player, were among those who helped serve the turkey and fixings. Both teens are students at Lynden Christian High School.
Other Salvation Army programs for people in need include case management, an emergency food bank, senior care, disaster relief, energy and transportation assistance, and summer camp.
“We even try to locate missing persons,” Lloyd says.
Lloyd, who parents were Salvation Army members, served eight years in the U.S. Army before beginning what has become an 18-year career with the Salvation Army.
“I switched armies,” he says. “Now I’m serving in an army of compassion.”