E-Angels transitioning to Shared Blessings program

Oct. 27—For 23 years E-Angels has served children in the McAlester area — and now the program is undergoing a transition.

Janet Derichsweiler, who started E-Angels, said she has handed the program over to Shared Blessings, which plans to make it part of its Student Needs program that assists children in Pittsburg County.

"It was very important to me that someone else was willing to take it and this was obviously the right choice," said Derichsweiler, who plans to assist with the transition.

E-Angels is short for Email Angels — a networks of individuals, groups, organizations, businesses and churches that helped make sure underserved children had gifts at Christmastime.

In 2020, E-Angels expanded to help meet the needs of underserved students for the entire school year during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many schools shut down in-person classes. E-Angels also put together cluster bags for children at participating schools, to help make sure they got what they needed during the pandemic.

"We followed the same model in 2021," Derichsweiler said.

After 23 years of running E-Angels, Derichsweiler felt ready to step down from running the program she originated. She contacted Shared Blessings about taking it on.

"They had already been helping me a lot," said Derichsweiler. "They were already supporters of E-Angels. I had already asked them if they would be willing to help, so they already had things in the works."

Derichsweiler handed all of her E-Angels correspondence over to Shared Blessings, with the program now handled by Shared Blessings Assistant Director of Operations Dillon Roberts.

"E-Angels is now a part of Shared Blessings' Student Needs program," Roberts said. He has already sent a communication to E-Angels partners informing them of the change and that Shared Blessings has agreed to continue with the program.

He noted Shared Blessings already has a number of programs designed to help children, including the Back to School Bash, the Beds for Kids program and the Nutrition Club, which provides bags for children who may be food insecure to take home with them on weekends.

"We deliver the bags on Thursdays and Fridays during the summer," Roberts said.

He is now looking forward to making E-Angels part of Shared Blessings.

"E-Angels has built quite a program," said Roberts said. "We're really excited."

All of the work that E-Angels does for children goes through school counselors or other school personnel at participating schools. Roberts said Shared Blessings plans to continue with that process.

Shared Blessings Executive Director Scott Walker said Shared Blessings will continue with what E-Angels has started. E-Angels is supported through donations and contributions. Walker said E-Angels donors can continue to give to E-Angels through Shared Blessings.

"We're going to carry out the heartbeat E-Angels has for kids at the schools," said Walker.

Dercihsweiler recalled how the program started because of the need of one child.

"In the beginning, it was brought to my attention one child needed a coat," Derichsweiler said, referring to a classmate of her son, Will. "So many wonderful people people were willing to help. It's wonderful to a part of a community this giving and loving."

So, does Derichsweiler feel she is passing the E-Angel torch to another?

"One-hundred percent," she said. "The torch has been passed."

E-Angels volunteers packed bags filled with items for underserved children each holiday season for the past 23 years — but rose to meet new challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We gave out gift cards for groceries," Derichsweiler said. She said Debbie Ashmore at Mazzio's helped E-Angels arrange for pizza deliveries to children in danger of going hungry during the shutdown that began that March.

"We also gave money to the school technology department for iPads rentals," Derichsweiler said, saying children without iPads had to rent them.

A major part of the effort included working on the cluster bags for children.

Items going into the bags included pants, shirts, socks, underwear, shoes, a blanket, toothbrush, toothpaste, a hairbrush, deodorant, shampoo and a bar of soap. Not all of the items were necessarily in every bag, said Derichsweiler. A lot depended on a child's request, and older ones, such as teens, often had different requests than the younger ones.

Gift bags were delivered to the schools by E-Angels, where school personnel distributed them.

E-Angels has projects at schools in McAlester, Krebs and Hartshorne. Anyone with a child attending one of those schools with a child in need of assistance through E-Angels should contact their school, Derichsweiler said.

What do the donations, contributions and volunteer help for E-Angels as well as other charitable organizations and events in the McAlester area say about the community?

"I think our community has a love for each other and by the grace of God we are able to do this," said Derichsweiler. "We have a community that cares about the kids."

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.