Of all the charitable activities Orpha Moody participates in, the one that brings her the most pride comes during the holiday season.
A major in the Salvation Army, Moody helps oversee the organization’s Angel Tree program in Idaho Falls.
For nearly 50 years, the Salvation Army has made it a goal throughout the holiday season to bring a memorable Christmas morning to kids in need. With the Angel Tree program, individuals or organizations can sponsor a child and provide them gifts under the tree.
Each child receives $40-$50 worth of toys and/or clothing.
It is a labor of love for Moody, who has been participating in the initiative for the last five years.
“My husband and I have been with the Salvation Army as ordained ministers for the past 27 years,” Moody said. “We just love Christmas. He runs the kettles and I just love doing the toys. I love the Angel program. It takes long hours because I come in and try to match them up with every single kid.”
In Idaho Falls, Moody is expecting between 1,200-1,500 children will be cared for through this project, with 20 to 25 individuals and 25 to 30 groups already committing to donating toward the project.
One of these individuals is Natalie Mecham, who feels a personal connection with what the Salvation Army is doing through Angel Tree.
“I grew up in a family that struggled each year to put anything under the Christmas tree,” she said. “So I understand what these families are feeling this time of year. This has been a tradition my husband and I have been doing for many years now.”
This fall, Mecham enlisted the help of 28 artists from across the world to raise funds for the initiative. In what she called Art for Christmas, Mecham managed to raise enough funds through a charity auction to support 20 children this holiday season.
And her support of the program has now become an annual family affair.
“Using my art as a way to make a difference in so many lives is a dream come true for me,” Mecham said. “And for my family this is a special tradition. Now that my kids are a little older, they understand that we are helping Santa, we will deliver the gifts to the Salvation Army so that Santa will be able to pick them up and give them away to other children.”
Several local and national businesses also get involved with the Angel Tree project, Moody said, including Sam’s Club and Idaho National Laboratory, to name a few. But one particular restaurant, Perkins, has taken Moody by surprise with its support over the past few years.
“They’ve been doing this for like 15 or 20 years,” she said. “I’m totally amazed. That’s probably our best sponsor. I never thought, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years, that a restaurant would do so much. They do at least 300 angels. They have loyal customers, and they look forward to the angels. I just can’t get over the fact that they do so much there.”
Moody says the group has plenty of opportunities for people to get involved before the holidays end.
“Whatever they would like to do, we will accommodate them as much as we can,” she said.
The Salvation Army is accepting toy and clothing donations for the Angel Tree project at its distribution center on North Boulevard in Idaho Falls until Dec. 16 and will begin distribution Dec. 18. Cash donations also will be welcomed through Christmas at any kettle location.
Reporter Marc Basham can be reached at 208-542-6763