The Salvation Army’s Angel Giving Tree is decked out for the Christmas season at Valley View Mall — except for the final step of kindly souls checking its boughs to pick tags with names of children who need clothing.

The tree, which Salvation Army staffers and volunteers decorated Thursday, will light up Saturday, when people will be invited to don Santa Claus personas to choose a tag with a child’s name for whom they will buy a new shirt, pants and shoes.

Each tag will have a child’s name, age, clothing sizes and some of the child’s interests to help choose a toy or other gift.

The tree will stand in the mall’s center court with care — in the hope that St. Nicks soon will be there to pluck all of the names by Dec. 8. The corps was able to provide presents for about 1,000 children last year and hopes to do the same this season, said Nick Ragner, the agency’s public relations coordinator.

“A lot of us sometimes take Christmas for granted,” Ragner said. “The presents, the giving, the celebration — some families don’t have the means to recognize Christmas as the holiday that many of us have come to know and love.

“This program would not be possible without the community’s support,” he said.

The annual effort helps provide parents with the comfort that their children will be getting gifts so they can concentrate on their families’ day-to-day needs without fretting about whether anything will be under the tree at home, Ragner said.

Trees with tags also will be featured at every Shopko store in the La Crosse area beginning Nov. 17.

Presents can be left at the Valley View Mall tree or taken to Salvation Army headquarters at 223 N. Eighth St. Shoppers are asked to include the original tags and gift receipts with the gifts.

The presents will be distributed Dec. 14 at the National Guard Armory at 910 Oak Forest Drive in Onalaska.

Also Saturday, The Salvation Army will also kick off the bell-ringing portion of its Red Kettle campaign at 9:30 a.m. at Festival stores. Students and staff members of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse will be stationed at bell-ringing sites at Festivals and other stores throughout the county from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. that day.

For more information on The Salvation Army’s Christmas programs, go to the agency’s website.

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