DeKALB – Doris Anderson didn’t mind standing outside in the snowy weather for about 10 minutes Tuesday to collect toys and clothes at The Salvation Army Community Center.
Anderson was one of hundreds of families that could not afford Christmas toys for their children. This year, 943 families with 2,176 children are registered said Greg Billings, Salvation Army food pantry coordinator.
Anderson, who has cancer, was collecting toys for children ages 12, 11, 8 and 6. She told her kids to always be grateful in good times because “you never know” what the future has in store.
“I think it’s just a blessing getting the help,” Anderson said.
Billings estimated that between 50 and 75 volunteers helped wrap and distribute gifts to needy families throughout the day. Several churches sent volunteers, he said.
Mayfield Congregational Church member John Carlson came to volunteer with his 11-year-old daughter, Emma. Both were helping wrap presents.
“One of the things I stress to the kids is it’s nice they come out and help out,” Carlson said. “Maybe they can see how fortunate they are with what they have.”
Emma volunteered to help people that are less fortunate. She has volunteered with The Salvation Army for the past three years.
“It makes my Christmas a lot better,” Emma said. “It makes me feel like I did something. I just didn’t receive. I gave back.”
Some volunteers were personal shoppers who took a client to one of five rooms, designated by age. The client chose two toys, a piece of clothing, a stocking stuffer, and hats and gloves for each child.
The Salvation Army was short on clothes this year, Billings said, but an anonymous person bought some clothes so they could get through the program.
Angel trees also were set up across the county to help collect clothes. Each angel tree had tags with a child’s wish on it. People took a tag and bought whatever the child needed.
All of the clothes and toys people received were unused, Billings said. Most of the clothes still had tags attached to them.
Needy families must meet income guidelines to qualify for gifts, Billings said. For example, one person qualifies if their gross income each month is $1,753 or less.
Because of the number of families, toys had to be restocked “constantly,” Billings said.
Christina Allison was receiving gifts for her three children, two of whom are 4-year-old twins.
Allison’s 11 year-old son wanted a Nintendo DS and an Xbox, but she had to tell him that he wasn’t going to get those things this year.
“I just don’t have the money that I wish I had at Christmastime,” she said.
However, Allison’s 4-year-old daughter wanted ponies, and Allison was able to find a My Little Pony toy for her.
That is Judy Phillips’ favorite part of volunteering with The Salvation Army. In the first couple of hours, Phillips saw children find exactly what they wanted for Christmas.
“It just makes them so happy,” Phillips said. “It makes me feel good and them feel good.”