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Angel Tree: Amazing and Trusted Holiday Program

Angel Tree: Amazing and Trusted Holiday Program

For many families in our nation, the holiday season can be a mixed bag. On one hand, you have all the natural joy that the season brings: the lights, the focus on family, the seasonal breaks.  On the other hand, you have the stress: longer hours for retail workers, high traffic, and the pressure of gift-giving.


With programs like the Angel Tree, families can remove one stressful item from their holiday list. This program, run by the Salvation Army, helps connect needy children and senior adults with donors excited by the prospect of giving back this holiday season. 

This time-honored tradition of helping others during the coldest, loneliest months of the year is heartwarming for donors and recipients alike. The process behind this fascinating program is simple; all it takes is some basic understanding and the knowledge of where to reach out! 

What is the Angel Tree Program?

The Angel Tree is a program founded and operated by the Salvation Army, a charitable organization backed by the universal Christian Church. Though the Salvation Army is motivated by the Christian religion, it proudly reaches out to help thirty million Americans regardless of race, sexuality, or origin.  

The Salvation Army helps through the distribution of food donations, connecting people in need with vehicle assistance, and raising funds to help people facing eviction. Through it all, one of their most successful projects has been the Angel Tree Program.  


The Salvation Army believes that every child deserves the joy of unwrapping a gift during the holidays. Every year, this program helps hundreds of thousands of children and senior citizens feel that joy!

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How it Works

This process starts with registration. Once someone has been registered as a possible recipient, they are given a list to fill out detailing their likes and dislikes.  This frequently includes clothing sizes, age, and any specific toys or shows the recipient may enjoy. This list remains vague, and any identifiable details are kept private. 

From here, the Salvation Army works to distribute these lists, connecting recipients with people looking for ways to give back. The manner in which these lists are distributed actually comes back to the name.  

Lists are often hung on trees in churches, shopping areas, or community halls where passersby can help work together to fulfill the recipients’ needs.  Anonymous donors can “adopt” a child or senior citizen for Christmas, filling their tree with goodies.

During harsh economic times, no parent should feel trapped between providing their child the Christmas they deserve and being able to pay their rent

Where It Operates

The Angel Tree program operates throughout the United States and Canada, but participation varies from state to state. To figure out how you can get involved, either by receiving or donating, reach out to your local Salvation Army.

Though the Salvation Army is officially in charge of all Angel Tree information, you also might consider reaching out to a Walmart near you. In light of the 2020 pandemic, Walmart has partnered with Angel Tree, extending the reach of the program to bring Christmas to even more families across the continent.


In Walmarts all across America, shoppers can find Angel Trees posted, making “adoption” easier than ever.  Simply pick a list for a child in need, add a few toys and clothes to your regular grocery run, and leave these gifts behind. Associates of the program will make sure that these items end up in the right hands.

If you’re more of an online shopper, your options are even simpler.  Simply follow this link to find charitable organizations near you. When you select the Angel Tree nearest to you, Walmart’s online shopping program will take you to a list of items you can add to your cart for donation.

How to Get Involved

This program is massive and ever-expanding.  However, not everyone qualifies as a recipient. To find out if your family can become a part of a local Angel Tree, you must apply.

The application process varies by location, but you can reach out to your nearest Salvation Army to learn more about the specific requirements near you. You can also follow this link to the main service page, fill out your zip code, and complete your application online.  Not every county takes online applications, so if the webpage here doesn’t seem to work, don’t worry!  You can still reach out to your nearest Salvation Army to be sure. 

As with most programs, you can expect questions about household size and income. You may also be asked to prove guardianship of your child through a birth certificate, adoption papers, or other official documents.  

It’s also a good idea to come prepared with a photo ID and bills of some sort proving residence to your specific county. Angel Tree operates on a system of locals helping other locals. Before you can get involved, they’ll need to make sure that you’re reaching out to the right neighborhood. 


If you don’t qualify for the Angel Tree program, don’t fear! You may still qualify for other programs that help provide gifts during the holiday season. Check out our article to learn more: “Christmas Help: 15+ Ways to Get Free Gifts and More.”

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History of the Program

This program dates back to 1979, in Lynchburg Virginia. Majors Charlie and Shirley White reached out to a local shopping mall, hoping to find ways to connect families with those in need. They understood that during the holiday season, many people are compelled to find ways to help others; many just don’t understand how. 

The Whites initially began by buying Hallmark cards decorated with angels, filling them with lists of items for children in the local area. They began calling the recipients “angels”, encouraging others to help fill their trees on Christmas morning. The Angel Tree program was born.

Thanks to this duo, seven-hundred children’s Christmases were made happier that first year.  Their legacy has only continued to grow!

Since then, millions of children have gone on to receive gifts on Christmas, and hundreds of thousands more join their ranks every year. There remains no charge to participate. The only goal of the program is to connect those in need with people excited to help!

Final Thoughts

The Angel Tree program is time-tested and remains one of the most popular donation programs every Christmas season. For those willing to donate, “adopting” an angel only costs around fifty dollars. With every year, this exceptional program continues to grow, reaching more families across the continent, helping thousands of more children experience the joy they deserve on Christmas morning!

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Catherine Marucci

Tuesday 11th of October 2022

Hi Anna. You may want to call 211 as well to see if they know of anything else in your area.