Howard University’s Office of the Dean of the Chapel recently hosted the gift-wrapping party for its 22nd annual Angel Tree project.  

The Angel Tree project is one of many servant-leadership opportunities offered by the university’s chapel. Each holiday season, the program collects toys, gifts, and donations from community members and on-campus organizations and grants everything to public schools and homeless shelters in Washington, D.C.  

The university proclaimed in a recent post that the committee and other volunteers wrapped over 400 gifts this year. The wrapping party is held after the window for donations has closed, and community members come together to wrap the gifts before sending them to the school and shelters for the children.  

This year’s Angel Tree project coordinators were the community service co-chairs of the Chapel Assistants. They were Jada Miligan, a senior computer information systems major from Atlanta, and Courteney Charles, a senior math major from Long Island, New York. Blavity U spoke with the two student-leaders about their experience preparing for the project and their overall dedication to upholding the university’s motto of truth and service. 

When asked about the amount of time, organization, planning, and promoting that went into executing this year’s Angel Tree project,  Charles said,  “I definitely didn’t realize the extent of the planning and organizing that would have to go into Angel Tree until I was engulfed in it. My team and I, consisting of my other community service co-chair and the two Assistant Program Coordinators affiliated with the Office of the Dean of the Chapel, had multiple meetings every week to check-in. We had to adhere to deadlines, whether that entailed emailing the schools and shelters, setting up committees, assigning angels to different organizations, etc." 

She continued, "There were many different steps that we had to take in order to successfully carry out this project. We had deadlines for submitting interest emails, distributing information packets, creating flyers, setting up the committees, creating excel sheets, setting up calls to chapel, and more. The committees really helped. The database, public relations, correspondence, and tabling committees consisted of student leaders from different backgrounds on Howard’s campus. Each committee had delegated tasks, and their hard work really helped contribute to the success of the project!” 

“The most rewarding part of being the community service co-chair for Chapel Assistants and leading the Angel Tree is being able to witness the turnout for the collection of gifts," shared Miligan. "This year we allowed for general donations because there were so many people who wanted to donate but missed the opportunity to sign up. Seeing all the gifts we got in addition to the ones assigned to people and organizations was so beautiful because it showed just how much the community cares. Also since we were given so many excess gifts we’re able to give general donations to two additional locations this year expanding our impact.” 

Courteney Charles also believes that initiatives such as these play a large role in teaching students lessons in leadership and growth.

“Growth in leadership is inadvertent. As a leader, you have to constantly adapt to changing situations," she says. "Although it may have been difficult allocating my time towards the project, with my classes, research project, and other leadership positions on Howard’s campus, it was worth it. Even the most difficult challenges present an opportunity to engage in that experience. Through that experience, you learn lessons that you can apply to whatever comes next. It was hard to see the end of the project back in August and September, so I had to learn to focus on the future by being present in the moment. By focusing on little daily tasks, the project kept advancing towards the end goal, and that was amazing to witness.” 

Being in service of the community at large is important to both Jada Miligan and Courteney Charles.

“Service is important to me because it is a gateway to giving love and showing kindness to others," explained Miligan. "It allows for me to leave a positive impact on someone’s life and potentially lead others to serve as well. Howard’s motto of 'Truth and Service' brought me to this campus and has allowed me to become more indulged in service. Every year I’ve been presented with opportunities to volunteer on campus, whether that be through the Day of Service events, serving as a Chapel Assistant or a member of the Team Leader Organization in the School of Business, or participating in Angel Tree. Making sure I partake in the opportunities to provide value to my DC community is everything for me.”   

Additionally, Charles views service as an ode to her own heritage saying.

 As a young Haitian-American woman, I am fortunate to be living in America, a place full of opportunity," she says. "These opportunities have opened doors that enabled me to impact the lives of others. My experiences have changed how I viewed the world around me and I believe that it is my responsibility to help others. I’ve made it my mission to not only partake in community service but to strive for leadership roles when possible. Considering that Howard’s motto is 'In Truth and Service,' it is very fitting that many organizations and many of my peers stress the importance of service. I’ve been invested in my community since middle and high school, participating in clubs like Key Club, so it wasn’t hard to continue once I got to Howard. Howard gave me many outlets to perform service, such as HU Day of Service, Circle K International, and even the New Yorkers Unlimited State Club. Considering the size and scale of the Angel Tree project, I was excited to run for community service co-chair for the Chapel Assistants, and got even more excited once I was elected. This project has warmed my heart and I hope it continues year after year.” 

Darreonna Davis is a journalism student at Howard University who is working as a Blavity U student ambassador. Davis relies on her news writing, feature writing, production and editing skills to amplify the stories and experiences of Black women.