“Rather than exchanging gifts, which none of us really need, we decided to give back to the community,” explained Michele Bannon, Carbondale’s city clerk for the past 25 years, as she discussed city employees’ longstanding Christmas tradition of giving to the needy.

This year, for the first time since Ms. Bannon joined the city’s administrative team, participants decided to go all out by enlisting help from the community in attempting to “fill the truck” with toys for kids in need. With the enthusiastic advocacy of Department of Public Works employee Gloria Maddage, city employees participated in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program.

According to the Salvation Army’s website, the Angel Tree Program allows anonymous donors to put new clothes and toys under the Christmas trees of over a million children nationwide.

Individuals, businesses, and other groups or organizations can “adopt” one or more children whose age, gender, clothing sizes, and toy wish list they receive. Gifts are then purchased by the donors and delivered to the Salvation Army for distribution to registered families.

This year, city employees from the Department of Public Works, finance department, fire department, police department, community development department, parks and recreation department, and city administrative department adopted 29 children. Although children remain anonymous to the donors, all of the children reside locally, something Ms. Bannon states is important to her on a personal level.

“As a collective conscience for the whole group of us here, we want to share the joy of the season. The gifts all stay in the area, which means a lot,” she remarked. “The participants, and our city residents, are part of a very generous community. I’m never shocked by it, but my heart is always filled by the generosity of the community.”

Ms. Bannon mentioned several businesses that helped make the Angel Tree Project an overwhelming success, including PersoNELLized Cakes & Cafe, 2 Brothers Construction, Domino’s Pizza, and Calandi’s Café. A special event was held at Calandi’s Cafe on December 16. Attendees who donated a new, unwrapped toy or clothing item for kids ages infant through age 16 were treated to a free ham and cabbage dinner and an open mic night.

“Debbie Calandi did a free dinner and open mic night for people who donated an unwrapped toy. It turned into a really big community event. The dump truck was quite literally filled!” said Ms. Bannon, who said that the goal of providing items for the 29 families was far exceeded with toy donations that will all be used to help local families.