CASA 69 Executive Director Evinn Wyatt was in the Texan Sky Credit Union lobby Friday with two of her associates. Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic the lobby has been closed to the public, but this was a special occasion. Wyatt was there to pick up wrapped Christmas presents for 51 children who because of credible allegations that they had been abused or neglected had been removed by court order from their homes and placed in foster care until their cases could be resolved by the court. "For some of these kids these are the only presents they will receive," said Wyatt last year.
For the last five years the staff of Texan Sky has put up and decorated a so-called Angel Tree in the lobby of the credit union. According to Janet Garcia of Texan Sky, "We met Evinn at a health fair and talked about how cool it would be to get some type of help out in our community, and they talked about kids who didn't get Christmas. We just started from there, and it has been something we look forward to eve year."
In normal times, staffers of the credit union hang decorative angels on the tree. Each angel has the Christmas wishes of a child written on it. Staff or customers coming into the lobby choose an angel -- or two or however many they want -- purchase the gifts, wrap them, and place them under the tree. The Angel Tree serves clients of both CASA 69 and Safe Place, Inc. CASA 69 is an organization made up of volunteer advocates who help monitor the welfare of foster children during the long court process that determines their ultimate fate. CASA 69 staffers and volunteers pick up the presents and deliver them to the children. Because of a lack of foster families in Moore County, local children often have to be placed in foster homes as far away as Houston. Their presents have to be mailed to them, especially now that the COVID pandemic has put the brakes on a lot of travel and face to face meetings.
COVID added another wrinkle to the process this year, according to Garcia. In the past the angels are taken more often than not by credit union customers doing business in person in the building on 5th Street in Dumas. Because the lobby has been closed to the public, Texan Sky staffers have had to resort to social media to get the word out about the angels and find people willing to purchase the presents. "We really didn't think we were going to get it done … because our doors were closed. … It was difficult, but we got it done. We are very excited," she said.
Garcia said children from the Bible Baptist Church took 10 to 20 angels and Joyce Kasza made a big donation. People from Dumas, Stratford, Sunray, and elsewhere in the area responded in a big way, and all the angels were taken. All the children will receive presents and have a bit of Christmas cheer during a difficult time in their lives. "It wasn't just our membership" she said. "It was the entire community."