Paula Hayes: A Christmas Tradition of Giving

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NorthPark Center is always abuzz with shoppers, diners, and even art enthusiasts—the shopping mall is known and renowned for its uniquely curated art displays in the midst of all of the stores—but activity spikes during the holiday season. There are fun attractions, like the beloved trains, and there are plenty of gifts to buy for loved ones. But best of all, there’s the Salvation Army Angel Tree.

The Angel Tree tradition began in 1979, and the Salvation Army’s goal was (and still is) to provide children in need with gifts for Christmas. NorthPark Center has served as the home for the Angel Tree for many years, and the Dallas Observer reports that patrons of the shopping mall have helped over 400,000 North Texans buy gifts for their children. A giant, beautiful Christmas tree is put on display and instead of ornaments, tags are hung featuring children and the gifts they’d love to receive. Patrons can take the tags home, purchase the items, and bring them back to the tree to be distributed. Dallas has embraced this tradition, and while there’s no shortage of generosity when it comes to gift giving, there is always a need for one thing: volunteers.

Paula Hayes grew up in a home that revered volunteerism. She serves in various capacities for nonprofits throughout Dallas, but the Angel Tree is a project that brings her a little extra joy. It’s largely due to the fact that the tradition reminds her of the way her mother instilled a mindset of service within her whole family.

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“My mother, Joanne White, started Christmas Cheer for Children in our hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana,” Paula said. “The program helped bring Christmas gifts to the families that fell between the cracks of the social programs offered in our town. Once I had children, we began selecting angels at NorthPark so that at our new home in Dallas we could continue giving in the ways my mother had modeled for us.”

When Paula’s youngest child went off to college, she began recruiting a group of friends to help with the collection of the gifts, including at their children’s schools and in their neighborhoods. This year the group congregated at NorthPark on the day that gifts were collected so they could help organize and inventory all of the items that had been generously donated. Paula and her friends have so much fun at the event, and they know their hard work is making a difference for those in need.

“Dallas is full of people who are passionate about doing good for others and our community,” Paula said, which is evidenced by the mounds of gifts piled under the Angel Tree year after year.

Even though this year’s round of gifts have already been collected, keep your eyes peeled on NorthPark’s website to find out how you can get involved in the Angel Tree’s efforts in 2018.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

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Story by Rachel Brown. Photos by Hunter Lacey.

Mary Martin