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Making a Merry Christmas

Salvation Army provides holiday help for the needy.

Amanda Nick, a medical records specialist at Loudoun Hospital Center at Lansdowne, has never met “Isaiah,” but he will be one happy boy this Christmas thanks to her generosity.

For the first time, Nick picked a Salvation Army “Be An Angel” tag from the Christmas tree in the hospital foyer. She selected one with the name “Isaiah,” because her nephew bears the same name. “This little boy is 4, and my nephew will be 4 in July,” she added.

THE TAG CONTAINED a wish list of gifts he would like to receive on Dec. 25. “I figured since I was buying this little boy’s Christmas, he deserved a good one,” she said, smiling. “I’ve been blessed all my life, and I can give.”

And give, she did. Donning the role of St. Nick, she bought a Leap Frog educational game, Legos, a football with a kick stand, three remote-control trucks, a car ramp with two extra cars to with it, gloves, an outfit, underwear, socks, snow shoes and a toboggan.

She was standing near the tree Thursday morning, waiting for the Salvation Army to pick up all of the gifts donated by hospital personnel. “It makes me very happy. It makes me feel very good about myself,” she said.

Nick, 20, said she plans to make the angel project a tradition.

Rod Huebbers, president and chief executive officer of the hospital, stopped at the tree and saddled a bicycle he bought for a needy child. He showed off the telescope he had acquired. “I always wanted a telescope,” he recalled. “So I got a good one.”

THE HOSPITAL STAFF joined the Salvation Army’s holiday effort about four years ago, soon after Huebbers took over. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s a part of who we are, what we are, what works.”

Charlene Martin, employee events coordinator, said the Salvation Army usually gives the hospital the names of Loudoun’s neediest children and senior citizens. The staff helps 50 to 100 people each Christmas. “We want to give to the county. We’re a family and Loudoun County is part of that family,” she said.

Salvation Army Capt. Sung Young Lee loaded the gifts into a truck and drove to Leesburg, where they were deposited in a warehouse. He said he expected the gifts would go to about 1,200 people, about the same number as last year. Some people buy all the items on the list while others purchase only one. The Salvation Army uses money from its Christmas kettles to buy additional gifts and to supplement operations.

“I really appreciate their participation,” he said.

While contributions to the “Be An Angel” project are steady, they are down at the Christmas kettles, he said. Part of the problem is that some stores made them wait until the first week of December to start ringing their bells while others have stopped allowing them to stand outside their stores. Lee said the organization raises about $100,000 in Loudoun County with the kettles. “We’re going to achieve our goal, no matter what,” he added.

MEANWHILE, “Be An Angel” gifts continued to mount at the Dulles Town Center Saturday night. Potomac Falls students Michael Fraino and Alex Nguyen collected the gifts as they stood by the Christmas tree. Fraino said he was a member of the school’s Interactive Club, which promotes volunteerism. “It’s good, because I can help the people who are less fortunate,” he said. “It’s kind of fun.”

He and his best friend, Nguyen, rang bells at the holiday kettles two weeks prior to volunteering at the mall.

Susan Boatwright of Sterling dropped off a second set of gifts Saturday. She and her daughter, Betsy, had so much fun buying gifts for their first “angel,” they decided to adopt a second one. “It caught my daughter’s eye, and she got me interested in it,” she said.

Betsy Boatwright, who lives in Great Falls, said she decided to participate, because she doesn’t have a child of her own. “There is something exciting about it,” she said. “It’s like adopting. It’s like reaching for a star, taking that child in need.”

She said she remembers feeling the “most lonely” when she was 7 and 11, so she picked children whose ages corresponded with those numbers.

Betsy Boatwright said she especially likes having the Salvation Army Christmas tree at the mall. “You can go and come back with your presents,” she said.

Her mother nodded. “It’s very convenient.”