The holidays always bring out the giving spirit in people, and the Tullahoma community is no different.
There are multiple ways for people to help out and give back, including the Salvation Army Angel Tree, the Pet Angel Tree at The News office and the coat drive put on by the Come to the Table ministry last month.
One more way for people to help their fellow man is located at the SunDrop Shoppe and Luncheonette, where residents can help an “angel” from Blue Monarch give their families a very merry Christmas.
According to Blue Monarch founder Susan Binkley, the Angel Tree is not something new for the program. In fact, the organization has had an annual Angel Tree set up in Sewanee at The Blue Chair Café and Tavern.
But this year, Blue Monarch Board Member Elizabeth Bowling suggested adding a Tullahoma Angel Tree so fans of Blue Monarch could have a local stop to pick up special items for the residents.
The Angel Tree also helps the program and coordinators set realistic expectations for their residents around the holiday season, according to Binkley.
“In the early years of Blue Monarch, we realized that people were so generous, Christmas could potentially get completely out of control,” Binkley said. “We were grateful, but the overabundance of gifts established an unrealistic tradition for our families to continue once they left our program. How would our mothers explain the difference when they could not keep up the pace?
“So we decided to allow each mother and child to choose five things they really wanted to Christmas and we would ask the local communities for help.”
There were even Blue Monarch supporters in Tullahoma driving all the way to Sewanee to pick up an angel from the tree, Binkley added, so providing a more convenient Angel Tree location seemed like a good idea.
As for the location, the SunDrop Shoppe seemed like the perfect spot since the luncheonette supports Blue Monarch every day by offering the Out of the Blue granola, made by Blue Monarch residents.
Owner Paige Prescott Lashlee said she was happy to be a host location for the tree, as she’s an ardent supporter of the program.
“I was on the board of Blue Monarch for several years when I first moved back to Tennessee from Indiana and got involved with the program, and I think it’s a wonderful thing,” she said. “They approached me about having the tree here, and I thought it was a great idea and a great way to try to support the community and spread a little Christmas cheer.”
Each card on the tree represents one resident or child, including children who may not be living with their mothers full-time yet, according to Binkley.
Anyone wanting to help with the program needs to do is stop by the SunDrop Shoppe between now and Monday, Dec. 9, shop for the items listed on the card and deliver them to Weichert Realtors on South Jackson Street.
According to Jenny Orr with Weichert, the real estate office was happy to provide a convenient drop-off location for the items.
“We’ve got a conference room we can put them in, so we said we would do the drop off here,” Orr said.
The Monday deadline might seem quick, but it is necessary, according to Binkley.
“We always need plenty of time to gather the gifts and then sort them to make sure each family has the same amount,” she said. “We also have families who may move in after the angels were made, and we need to make arrangements for them, too.”
Once everything has been checked and double-checked, Binkley said the presents will be delivered to the residents later this month. The day the presents are delivered is always a special one for Binkley.
“This is one of the best days of the year at Blue Monarch, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world,” she said. “Our staff arrives early and spends hours sorting gifts and setting them into piles for each family. When the stacks of gifts are in place, we ring a farm bell on the porch and they come running.
“As they rush through the door, we direct each family to their special area and the kids begin tearing into their gifts right away. There are always tears from some of the moms and lots of excitement from the kids.
“It’s an emotional experience, and our staff usually ends up in tears as well.”
The moment is always a private one between the staff and residents of Blue Monarch, Binkley said. While she regrets that those who provide the gifts don’t get to witness the special moment, it still warms her heart to see the happiness on the faces of the Blue Monarch families.
“It’s a beautiful Christmas sight,” she said.
To pick up an angel card, visit the SunDrop Shoppe at 217 NW Atlantic St. Once the items on the card are purchased, deliver them to Weichert Realtors, Joe Orr & Associates at 309 S. Jackson St.
For more information about Blue Monarch, visit the organization online at www.bluemonarch.org.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.