Updated: Dec 15, 2020
This season, many organizations are in the spirit of giving and donating children’s most hoped for toys. This work is important because these children may not otherwise receive many gifts for Christmas. After all, 2020 has made us all more appreciative of what we have and more aware of how important it is to help others.
We had the privilege of interviewing our board member, Ann Allen, who as a child received holiday gifts from The Salvation Army. She discussed how being an Angel impacted her as a child and influenced her to give back as an adult. As a result, GiSTEM, Inc. participated in the Holiday Fox Socks program to donate gifts to children for the holidays.
Funding Officer, GiSTEM, Inc.
Business Analyst II, S&P Global Market Intelligence
After reflecting on her past, Ann Allen says she owes her experience with The Salvation Army to her grandmother. Allen recalls that part of the draw to the organization was, “Free Food! In a way this is true. My grandma decided to walk down the street from our house and found the church ever since then we have been attending.” When asked to describe The Salvation Army, she stated, “There are three words that come to mind Soup, Soap and Salvation! Once you feed the people and wash them, they are ready to hear the word of God.” The Salvation Army is a church that serves the community. It is located in South Richmond, Virginia - the same city where she currently gives back today.
“I encourage people to donate to The Salvation Army. The money goes towards the community and the church. The money that goes towards the community helps to serve food and shelter to people in need. The money that goes towards the church serves the children meals when they attend different events and programs,” says Allen. The children are able to experience music lessons, dance, camping and more for little to no cost. Allen believes that during this season, The Angel Tree and Holiday Fox Socks are important events at The Salvation Army. “A purchase can really make a child’s day. I know when I received items from the Angel Tree and Holiday Fox Socks, those items made me happy for the entire year,” says Allen.
When asked to look back to her time with The Salvation Army, Allen said, “Yes, I was an angel since I started attending The Salvation Army church down the street from my parent’s house. Growing up my family did not have much. So, the only time that we got presents for Christmas was being an Angel on The Angel Tree for Christmas. My siblings and I filled our own forms out since our parents did not speak English. When we got things from Angel Tree or Fox Socks, we would always open them once we got them, which was usually a week or two before Christmas. The night of Christmas Eve the items that we do not like too much, we would wrap it and give it to each other on Christmas.” She remembers that when she was little, she really enjoyed the toys and received a stuffed panda bear. In hindsight, she realizes she appreciated the clothes and shoes so much more.
Allen gives The Salvation Army (TSA) credit for providing her with different experiences. She said, "one of the most important things they introduced to me was music. I learned how to play the trumpet. I played starting from first grade and played through high school. I was able to travel to different cities and states playing music with them." She also mentioned that it would not be The Salvation Army without mentioning the love of brass bands in the organization.
Ann Allen playing the trumpet during The Salvation Army Christmas Bell Ring in 2011
Allen knows that being in the organization made it easier to make friends during grade school. "In my college years, I got to experience a big leadership role in the music program at TSA and it gave me a taste of what it feels like to have a big responsibility with kids and working with other leaders," she recalls. As an adult, Allen still donates both her money and time to TSA and other organizations like GiSTEM, Inc. She knows her presence can be the change in her community.
Ann Allen receives an award for her service at GiSTEM,Inc. in 2019
There are so many ways that you can volunteer or participate in events with The Salvation Army in Central Virginia. For more information, follow The Salvation Army in Central Virginia on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SalArmyRVA.
Interested in volunteering with GiSTEM? Visit our website at www.gisteminc.org. You can also follow GiSTEM, Inc. on all social media platforms, @gisteminc.
Fox Holiday Socks, participate next year!
Written by LaToya Mayfield
Edited by Shatara Weaver