Salvation Army’s Angels go up

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 28, 2002

Capt. Todd Brewer is beginning to get the Christmas spirit.

Whether that’s because he is the person in charge of handling the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, or in spite of it, depends largely on how you view the idea of divine grace.

Brewer is commanding officer of the Selma chapter of the Salvation Army. As such, it’s his duty to oversee the processing and selection of recipients in the Army’s annual Angel Tree program.

Email newsletter signup

The program allows people who wish to help the less fortunate during the Christmas season to donate items anonymously to children who might not otherwise get any presents.

The children come largely from low-income, single-parent homes. Some have never known what it is to have two parents. Some have a parent in prison who is unable to provide for his or her family. Others live in a home in which one or both parents have been laid off and there is no money for such luxuries as Christmas presents.

Part of Brewer’s responsibility is to &uot;separate the needy from the greedy,&uot; to see that those who truly need help get it and those who would abuse the system are weeded out.

It’s a daunting task. In Selma, there are literally hundreds of families that apply to participate in the program each year. It is Brewer’s unenviable job to decide who qualifies and who does not.

As of last week, just over 400 children had been selected for inclusion in the program, although applications from the families of prisoners were still being accepted.

To ensure that those chosen are indeed sufficiently &uot;needy,&uot; the Salvation Army performs an exhaustive background check on all applicants.

To qualify, participants must bring a photo ID, along with Social Security numbers for everyone in the household, proof of income and copies of all household bills.

Applicants are put through such a process, in part, to preserve the integrity of the program and to assure donors that their gifts go to those who are truly in most need. But the process is also meant to weed out those who would abuse the program – those who would lie about their income or expenses, and those who would make up Social Security numbers for children that do not exist in order to milk the system.

And, says Brewer, there are hundreds each year who try to do just that. If his faith were not as strong as it is, he adds, the temptation to become cynical would be overwhelming. But that’s where a belief in divine grace comes into play.

Divine grace, he believes, is stronger than man’s unfortunate tendency to succumb to temptation.

Even though the program is based on the best of intentions, Brewer is keenly aware that the application process can be very intimidating for many people.

Along with Diane Garrett, a caseworker who works at the Salvation Army,

Brewer has devised a sort of mathematical formula to help him decide who qualifies for inclusion in the program and who does not. Still, it is difficult to reduce the parade of human misery that comes through his office each day to a mathematical formula.

Brewer knows first hand what it feels like to be on the receiving end of charity, even well intentioned charity. His name once hung from an Angel Tree.

Selma’s economy has absorbed some hard blows in recent months with the bankruptcy and sale of American Candy, the closing of the city’s two Burger King restaurants, and a reduced production schedule at Meadowcraft. The Salvation Army has gotten calls for help from employees at each of those businesses.

Angel Trees are on display at the main entrance to Selma Mall and at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library. Each &uot;Angel&uot; includes the child’s first name and family ID number and whether they are male or female, along with their age and clothing sizes.

If an individual or group wishes to adopt more than one Angel, they may contact the Salvation Army at 872-1646.