Success Story:
The Angel Tree Project: Spreading Joy in the Midst of Uncertainty


Resilient communities lift one another up in times of need. During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Telamon-TRC’s community partners reached out to offer support to farmworker families in unexpected ways. The East Tennessee Foundation knew about Telamon’s work in Tennessee; the Foundation had awarded funding to Telamon TN for art projects in past years. Seven months into the pandemic, a senior staff member at the Foundation contacted staff at the Bybee Center in Cocke County, where Telamon offers Migrant and Seasonal Head Start services. She reached out directly to encourage Telamon to pursue support for families through the Laura J. Kress Angel Tree Fund, which helps to fill holiday wishes for children in need.

Telamon’s Bybee Center was awarded $7,500 to provide gifts for enrolled children and families. Upon receiving the award, Center staff talked with parents to ask what their children might need and want for Christmas. Their generous support enabled Telamon staff to purchase pajamas, clothing, warm coats, books, toys, as well as a tricycle or a bike with a helmet and a Kindle Fire tablet for each enrolled child.

“ Together, and only together, can we create the kind of thriving communities we all want to have.” — East Tennessee Foundation

In mid-December, Telamon staff organized an event at a local park where families could receive their gifts while socially distancing. A little girl who had been very shy and quiet spoke so rarely that the staff were concerned she might have a speech delay. When the child saw her present, she kept pointing to it asking, “Is that mine? Is that mine?” Once she opened it, she was so happy she couldn’t stop talking. As gifts were opened, the parents were almost as excited as the children. Through laughter and a few tears, parents thanked staff again and again, saying the gifts were more than their children had ever received for Christmas.

Maireny, a single mother, had two children enrolled at the Bybee Center during the 2020 season. She said things have been hard. “With Covid, there is less work and fewer resources for families. My kids had asked for bikes, and I was trying to save for that. But it was hard to save anything. When I saw that they got bikes, I was so excited. And then the clothes — it was all such a big help.”

The Angel Tree donation made a real difference for the families enrolled at the Bybee Center. It not only brought smiles to the faces of the children, it also relieved financial strain on parents dealing with lost wages due to Covid-19. Community partners, such as the East Tennessee Foundation have continually stepped up to support farmworker families during the pandemic, helping to build resilience within the local community.

Both the financial assistance as well as this exemplary generosity of spirit have contributed greatly to the farmworker community’s ability to weather the storms of 2020. The Foundation’s generous support enabled Telamon staff to purchase pajamas and clothing, warm coats, books, a few toys, as well as tricycle or a bike with a helmet and a Kindle Fire tablet for each enrolled child.

Head Start is part of Telamon-TRC’s Early Childhood & Family Support services, a comprehensive program that offers quality early education in and out of the home, parenting education, health and social-emotional wellness services (including for women before, during, and after pregnancy), nutrition education, and family support services.

Since 1965 Telamon-TRC has helped individuals like you access services that lead to better jobs, better lives, and better communities. Learn more about our Head Start programs today!