12/21/05 — Salvation Army volunteers play Santa Claus to needy

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Salvation Army volunteers play Santa Claus to needy

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 21, 2005 1:49 PM

Annie Davis isn't expecting any gifts for herself under the tree this Christmas. In fact, she would rather receive nothing at all if it means more for her little grandson, she said.

Mrs. Davis has been the lone guardian of the 4-year-old since he was a baby. While her age often limits her ability to provide for the child, keeping him safe and feeling loved has been her life's mission for the past three years.

And so, Tuesday at the Salvation Army, Mrs. Davis picked out an electronic guitar -- the perfect Christmas gift for a boy she says loves music.

"If I don't get anything that's OK," she said. "It's about him, and he is gonna be so happy."

Mrs. Davis paused for a moment, wiping tears from her eyes and began to pray.

"I thank God for showing His love this day," she said with a trembling voice, more tears trickling down her cheeks. "My boy's face is sure gonna light up when he sees these blessings on Christmas."

Mrs. Davis was one of the nearly 400 families scheduled to arrive at the Salvation Army Tuesday to pick up presents and holiday treats donated by the community.

Major Hazel Wiley said each year families across the county send in applications and receive gifts, food and clothing based on need.

"Each child gets two toys and a stocking," she said. "Food is based on need, and people can get clothing if it is available."

Mrs. Wiley added that more than 100 volunteers have supported efforts to give needy families a merry Christmas this year.

Senior Airman Ernest Andrews said he loves the holiday season because it's a time to give back to the community. That's why he and others from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base volunteered their time this week at the Salvation Army.

"There are a lot of people out here who wouldn't have a Christmas," Andrews said. "It's good to see the smiles on their faces."

Other volunteers from the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary and the base escorted parents through the toy room, watching as they picked out dolls, sports equipment, crayons and toy trucks. Once parents had selected presents that were "just right" for their children, the men carried their bags outside, loaded them into cars and wished all a very merry Christmas.

Loretta Knowles flashed a wide smile when she talked about military involvement in the event.

"They go out and serve our country, then they come serve Wayne County," she said. "They don't stop either -- every one of them with a smile on their face."

Mrs. Knowles, a social worker and event coordinator for the Salvation Army said the community has done a great deal more than she could have hoped for.

"We have had disasters this year, and people gave then," she said. "But they still didn't stop at Christmas. They gave so much."

The Salvation Army has been giving presents to needy families for more than 30 years, one volunteer said. Back then, used toys were cleaned and dolls redressed before they were wrapped for the children.

Tuesday, every toy in the building was brand new, a touch Mrs. Wiley said was important.

"No child should wake up Christmas morning to a used toy," she said.

Money raised from the community combined with toy donations made the event possible, Mrs. Wiley said. And it all goes to the children.

As Mrs. Davis was escorted outside, she turned, still wiping tears from her eyes, and thanked those who helped make Christmas special for her grandson.

"God bless all of you," she said. "This wasn't about giving. It was about love."