BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When you think about an Angel Tree, you probably picture a lighted Christmas tree decorated with children's names. This time of year, its more about boxes... empty boxes.
Inside an empty storefront inside the Mall at Cortana, Salvation Army Commander Major Brett Meredith and his wife, Mary, walk the aisles of empty boxes. The only sound is the ripping of cellophane tape off a large roll.
"Every box in this warehouse represents a family," Major Meredith explains. There are close to 1,500 of them, all soon to be filled through the kindness of strangers... most of them anyway. With about a week left in the Salvation Army's Angle Tree campaign, more than 650 children still need to be adopted.
That's 650 empty boxes for Christmas.
"It was a little bit surprising this year," the major explains. He and his wife have been involved with the program for 31 years, and the number of kids in need keeps rising. "The numbers did not go down at all. We're about the same level, maybe ever one to two percent higher than last year."
That's surprising when you consider the number of families still recovering from the floods last August who are now back to life as normal.
In the four years the Merediths have been in the Baton Rouge area, they say there has always been a big push to fill the last of the boxes, but this year, the number of empty boxes is almost double. Donations are starting to trickle in, but the fear is there will not be enough toys to go around, just like on Brett and Mary's first Christmas 31 years ago.
As struggling newlyweds with an infant daughter, the couple received Angel Tree assistance. "Two rag dolls and an outfit," Mary remembers.
That's why the couple is so determined to fill everyone of the boxes this year. "We're going to do everything we can to meet the needs," explains Major Meredith. "But the donor base has to grow to assist these children."
To help the Salvation Army reach its goal, you can adopt a child off an Angel Tree at the O'Neal Walmart, the Mall of Louisiana, or the Walmart in New Roads. And for more holiday donation opportunities and events, click here.