GTPulse: Paper Angels Seek a Few More Wishlist Donors

After a few claimed wish lists went unfulfilled, the Paper Angels Program is looking for folks wanting to make a child's Christmas bright this year.

Last night I watched ‘Jingle All the Way’ starring Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The entire premise of the movie is that Arnold needs to snag a TurboMan action figure to give to his son for Christmas. Watching the movie, I knew that all the theatrical antics of hunting down the toy would result in eventually finding one, and Arnold’s son would be the happy new owner of a TurboMan by the end without any inkling of the strife his father went through to procure it. Hollywood has a formula for Christmas movies. They’ll all end up cheery and bright at the end. Real-life is not so simple. Children who come from families that struggle with poverty don’t always find their version of TurboMan under the tree. What makes this particularly heartbreaking is that some of their friends and classmates will get exactly what they want from Santa, which could make a kid both bummed and confused. Child & Family Services helps even the inequities of holiday expectations with their program Paper Angels.

Once homeless singer Jimmy Wayne debuted his country song ‘Paper Angels’ in 2003. He was inspired by a mall Christmas tree covered with paper angels. The tree is part of a yearly program put on by the Salvation Army called Angel Tree. The Angel Tree Program puts foster kids and kids from poverty-stricken families on a Christmas tree in hopes that a kind soul will purchase a gift for one of them from their wishlists. When Jimmy’s caseworker put him on the tree as a little boy, he received his first guitar. It was a gift that changed the path of his life. His song, ‘Paper Angels’ pays homage to that bittersweet memory, and to all the kids that still live that experience. It was that song that inspired then WTCM radio host Jack O’Malley to partner with CFS on the program, and it’s been happening ever since.

Every year, CFS collects wish lists from underprivileged children from one of their programs or foster care and connect those who want to give with one of the lists they’ve received. Last year, 1000 wishlists were fulfilled. This year, about 500 lists have been fulfilled and there are still a few left.

“People, I think, appreciate having a specific list from a specific person that they knew they were impacting directly,” said Marketing and Development Specialist Melissa Ryba. “So we added community partners from the Goodwill Inn, Michigan Works, and things like that along the way. This year we scaled it back because of COVID and went back to focusing on foster kids and the kids in our programs because it is a lot to coordinate all these specific people and all of these lists, and we still wanted to do it despite COVID restrictions going on. It could be a child from our Safe Haven program, Wrap Around counseling, we have a lot of different programs. As long as they’re a client of our program they’re eligible to get a Paper Angel gift, along with our kids in foster care. We closed out wish lists down because we had met all of the lists. We had a drop off this weekend and a few lists that were signed up for were never dropped off. So we do have some open if people want to reach out again.”

And in this season of giving, it feels more important than ever to be kind, gentle and caring towards all others, especially those who have less. Through periods of difficulty either situationally or emotionally, I remember that doing something for others is a way to lift ourselves up. When we hold the door for the person behind us, let someone over while driving, or smile at a stranger, these small actions have big impacts on our feelings of well being. By nature, we’re community-centric creatures, and some of our most vulnerable community members are in need of a little cheer.

If you’re interested in fulfilling one of the left behind wishlists, contact Kendra Luta at Those who adopt a wishlist are asked to not spend more than $100 for kids under 12, and no more than $125 for kids over 12.

“There might be five kids in a family and five people fulfilling their lists. We don’t want one child in a family to have a lot more presents than the other. It’s open to anyone who wants to give. We have people who do it year after year, they’ve been doing it for 10 years or more. I was at a drop-off over the weekend, and it sounds really corny but every year it reminds me of how giving people are.”

A teen with housing instability asked for a gift card towards the purchase of a laptop. With college on the horizon, she knows that she’ll need one to get the ball rolling. Instead of a gift card, the woman who had the teen’s list brought her a brand new laptop.

“I was just blown away, that’s really going to change that girl’s life.”

Like Jimmy Wayne’s gifted guitar, you never know how much your kindness can change someone’s life.



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Categories: GTPulse