Along with the familiar Red Kettles, the Angel Tree program is one of The Salvation Army's highest profile Christmas efforts. Angel Tree was created by The Salvation Army in 1979 by Majors Charles and Shirley White when they worked with a Lynchburg, Virginia shopping mall to provide clothing and toys for children at Christmastime.
The program got its name because the Whites identified the wishes of local children by writing their gift needs on Hallmark greeting cards that featured pictures of angels. They placed the cards on a Christmas tree at the mall to allow shoppers to select children to help. Thanks to the Whites, who were assigned by The Army to the Lynchburg area at the time, more than 700 children had a brighter Christmas that first year.
Three years later, when the Whites were transferred to Nashville, Tennessee, Angel Tree was launched in the Music City. WSM radio, which airs the Grand Ol' Opry, came on board that year as the first Angel Tree co-sponsor in the U.S.
Because of the on-air promotion on WSM in Nashville, as well as national publicity on CNN and the Larry King Show, news of Angel Tree spread across the country like wildfire.