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The Gift of Giving – April Lam

April Lam leads the Angel Tree program at St. Malachy

By Stephanie Dolan

At Christmastime, it’s easy to forget that it’s not all about us. We look forward to the gifts beneath the tree, but it’s called the Season of Giving for a reason. April Lam is one of the people who actively seek out ways to give back instead of receiving.

April Lam leads the Angel Tree committee at St. Malachy church. The holiday project combines the congregation’s desire to give back with helping about 75 families in need at Christmastime. (Photo by Rick Myers)

Lam and her husband Thuy moved to Brownsburg about a year and a half ago, but they are not new to town. After emigrating from Vietnam with his family when he was 11, he graduated from Brownsburg High School, and for more than a dozen years they have been parishioners at St. Malachy. 

Giving back came naturally through the church’s Angel Tree ministry. This year Lam stepped up into a co-leader role for the holiday program that helps give back in Hendricks County.

“I think I’ll probably own it for the foreseeable future,” she said. “It’s outreach to needy families in Hendricks County. We partner with other agencies, and reach out to needy families.”

About 75 families get selected, and they fill out a form with information on sizes of clothes, coats and a toy that will bring joy to each child on Christmas morning. They also receive a family gift, such as a gift card from the church, Lam said. Then the congregation pools their resources to give gifts, just as God gave them the gift of Christ.

“We collect information from families and put an angel on tree with a family number,” she said.  “Then parishioners take those off the trees and go buy gifts.”

With Lam leading the ministry, St. Malachy leaders know the program is in good hands. 

“Her philanthropic spirit baffles me sometimes with what she’s able to accomplish,” said Jenny Zeunik, St. Malachy communications and community development staff member.

“When I had to give up the Angel Tree, I knew exactly who I wanted to ask to take it over,” she said. “She’s always the first one to raise her hand and say I’ll do it. No problem. She always does a wonderful job, and she puts her own spin on it. It’s great to see what a ministry can be when she’s in charge.”

In December Lam’s committee sorts and disperses gifts across Hendricks County, the final step in the months-long process. 

“We have a lot of volunteers come and help out,” she said. “Even if you only have 75 individuals and families, each child gets four items. We started this back in October.”

April and Thuy enjoy serving and giving back in this way and use it as a way to encourage their children and others to give back of their time and resources instead of receive.

“It sets a good example for our kids,” she said. “It’s important this time of year. Our kids help us pick out gifts for angels. They help with sorting and wrapping. We encourage not only our own children but other volunteers to get their kids involved. I think it’s neat to see the families come in and look at the angels and pick an item for a child they want to go buy.”

While much of Lam’s focus is currently on Christmas giving, she works all year long to give back to people in her community.

She has a heart for foster children because her 6-year-old daughter was a foster child whom she and her husband adopted. 

“I would say it was a little crazy for sure,” Lam said about the adoption process. “There were a lot of ups and downs, not knowing if she was going back to her foster family. She had a lot of trauma and things we’ve worked through.”

After not being able to have children after their first was born, Lam and her husband weren’t considering becoming foster parents until friends made the unexpected suggestion. 

“We hadn’t considered it,” she said. “We looked into training with the Children’s Bureau. Once we went through, my husband and I knew we really needed to do this. We felt we could provide the stability needed for a child to thrive.”

Now, Lam does a lot of work through the bureau. 

“I work for Anthem, and I organize the annual Christmas Drive, the Hope for the Holidays Drive sponsored by the Children’s Bureau,” she said. 

Outside of the drive, the Lams donated Thuy’s vehicle. The Lams reached out to the bureau to see if anyone needed a car. They are also doing a personal winter items collection for the Older Youth Services program that supports kids aging out of the foster care system.

“These kids can apply to be supported by Children’s Bureau for a longer amount of time,” Lam said. “The service is part of being that support system, being that helping hand for them.”

For the car, the bureau suggested someone who’s aging out of foster care. 

“She goes to work at 5 a.m. every day,” Lam said. “She works all day. She goes to school at night. Can you imagine doing that all on your own? We were happy to give her our car. It was a good feeling to know that we could impact her life that way.”

That is quite a Christmas present. And that is the kind of heart that Lam has for her community, especially at Christmastime.

The Angel Tree brings joy to Christmas for people who might be struggling. “They just feel like there’s a community of care behind them,” she said. “These people are not often associated with the parish, but they know that there are people out there who want to provide joy for them and their families. The biggest draw for me is that we’re making an impact in the community.”

Getting to know April Lam

What is your favorite TV show? “The Office”

What’s is your favorite movie? “Fried Green Tomatoes”

What have you most recently read? I’ve most recently read the first five books in the Karen Kingsbury series. She’s a Christian author.

What do you do to relax? Craft. I have a crafting business on the side that I do when the kids go to bed.

Who or what inspires you? I draw a lot of my inspiration from a person, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I love her selfless spirit, and she always had faith that everything would work out for the best.


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