DeKALB – The Salvation Army was a crowded – but jolly – place Tuesday during the first day of holiday clothing and toy distribution.
Along with Marine Corps League members who collect toys, the minister and churchgoers from Mayfield United Congregational Church of Christ, Salvation Army Capts. Michael and Alisha Cho pitched in helping registrants “shop” for toys, clothing and books.
“We have good volunteers, but we could always use more,” Michael Cho said. “We expect about 800 parents to come through today.”
Distribution will continue today at The Salvation Army, 830 Grove St. in DeKalb. More than 2,500 children had been registered to receive donations.
“We have enough toys,” Cho said. “Our community is so generous, we can provide two toys and a clothing item per child, stuffed animals and a game for each family.”
Each registered family was assigned a time to arrive, with new groups arriving every 15 minutes. All they needed was the registration ticket and a photo ID. Cho said another distribution takes place in Sandwich to serve the southern portion of the county.
Members of the DeKalb County Detachment of the Marine Corps League, the group that collects Toys for Tots, also volunteer to help with distribution of the toys they’ve collected in drop boxes around the county. League member Mike Slavens manned the door, answering questions and directing traffic.
“This is a wonderful partnership,” Slavens said. “We tried to distribute the toys ourselves, but they’re more organized here,” he added with a laugh.
Along receiving toys from Toys for Tots collections, The Salvation Army receives donations through an Angel Tree program and from the community.
Registrant Tennille Davis was pleased to find gifts for all five of her children, ages 2, 5, 7, 12 and 17.
“This is helping to give my kids a merry Christmas,” Davis said.
Another shopper, Leon Thompson, found gifts for his 13- and 14-year-old daughters.
“They can be hard to shop for,” Thompson said. “At that age, they can be hard period.”
Although shoppers could take their gifts home to wrap, The Salvation Army had volunteers from Mayfield available for just that purpose.
“This is a Mayfield event,” church pastor Martha Brunell said.
At the other end of the table, church member Phyllis Roush said she’s been volunteering to wrap gifts for the past four years.
“It’s all about the joy of helping people,” Roush said, between snipping paper and taping up packages. “And you meet some of the nicest people here.”
Salvation Army volunteer coordinator Gary Billings said volunteers make the distribution process work.
“If we get it right, everything goes smoothly,” Billings said. “Of course, without the generous donations, we wouldn’t have anything to distribute.”