Angels, angels everywhere, floating amid the glimmering lights that adorn a Christmas tree, where presents are all around. And it’s all in the name of charity for local disadvantaged Ocean Beach Elementary school students and their families this holiday season.
While some of these angels may be paper cutouts with doily wings inscribed with the age and gender of an Ocean Beach Elementary School student, there are many other angels afoot. These include Union Bank, along with a host of Ocean Beach and Point Loma residents, businesses and organizations.
And yes, The Ocean Beach MainStreet Association — complete with the always-visible OBMA representative Claudia Jack and her elves — are also at the heart of this community-honored tradition.
You may have wondered about the part OB Union Bank tradition plays in bringing this into being. According to branch manager Ernesto Hernandez, “When our customers walk in, they often want to know about the tree. The staff is more than happy to tell them about it. We’re honored to have this charity in the office and consider ourselves lucky to be part of, and help out, the community.”
How do you become an angel? It’s simple, according to Donna Lamb, Ocean Beach Elementary School’s community outreach and volunteer coordinator.
“Just choose one or more angels, then purchase an age-appropriate gift to place by the tree,” she said.
Gift-wrapping is optional, but appreciated, as the OBMA collects, wraps and then creates the gift boxes.
According to Lamb, this holiday outreach program has been a community tradition for at least 25 years. She has worked directly with Jack and her elves for 11 years now, and it’s her job to know which Ocean Beach Elementary School families are in need of support around the holidays. Lamb collects the information and passes it on to the PTA, which makes the angels.
“The YMCA after-school program teachers make the boxes that go out into the community,” said Lamb. “We serve 38-40 OB Elementary School families per year. This year, we have 39 boys and 31 girls who come from families with anywhere from one to five children. Each family will receive a wonderful food basket that includes turkey with all the fixings, along with brand-new, age-appropriate wrapped gifts — even bikes. Each child in the family, 18 or younger, and regardless of whether or not they attend OB Elementary, will receive gifts. That’s more than 100 children.”
This year, according to Lamb, the outreach program added a Teddy Bear Tree in the neighborhood Wells Fargo Bank.
“It works the same way as the Angel Tree,” said Lamb.
The OBMA and community volunteers get together the Saturday before Christmas at a local distribution site to create the baskets to meet the needs developed on Lamb’s list. Each child receives four to five wrapped gifts. Diapers, formula or other infant needs would be appreciated in the case of expectant mothers.
“I couldn’t do this without my administrative assistants Rebecka Garcia and Socorro Robles,” said Lamb, “who assist me on multiple levels and with the Spanish-speaking families.”
The holiday outreach program also ensures OB Elementary students whose families live outside the Peninsula area also receive toys and food baskets. According to Lamb, the police department’s Western Division, the Peninsula Family YMCA and the OB One Church are involved with this part of the program.
“If you would like to be an OB Angel this year, or at any time in the future, please contact me. Sometimes, we have last-minute families, too,” said Lamb.
Since OB Elementary is “in the hub of the community,” said Lamb, “I feel like the community hugs us. Not one of our community businesses has ever said, ‘no’ to our requests. They have hugged our school, supported our students and parents. We are very fortunate to have the community we have, and are thankful for all of our community angels.”
Union Bank is located at 1858 Cable St. You don’t need to be a regular customer to step inside, choose an angel and return with a gift.
The same applies to Wells Fargo Bank, which is located at 4994 Newport Ave.
For more information, contact Lamb at (619) 223-1631, or visit www.obelementary.com.