12/19/06 — Families get help for holiday from Salvation Army donors

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Families get help for holiday from Salvation Army donors

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 19, 2006 1:45 PM

Annie would rather get nothing at all this Christmas if it means more for her son and daughter.

As she stuffed Barbie dolls, board games and a toy truck into a large plastic bag, she smiled -- content in knowing her 3- and 4-year-old wouldn't go without on Christmas morning.

"My son likes driving the trucks around," she said. "For my daughter, she will love this doll."

Annie was one of hundreds who turned out this morning at the Salvation Army on William Street to pick up gifts for their children from nameless donors across Wayne County.

Martina pointed and laughed when she saw an Elmo doll sitting on top of the stack of presents for infant girls. It's a gift that should make her 1-year-old daughter happy this holiday season, she said.

"She doesn't know about him yet," she said. "But she saw one in Wal-Mart laughing and thought it was funny."

And while this particular Elmo didn't make sounds, it will still remind her of that happy moment, Martina said.

"This will be her favorite thing on Christmas," she said, grabbing a colorful xylophone with her free hand. "She likes music, too. She'll play with this all morning."

Those who came to pick out gifts for their families were greeted with warm smiles and friendly words from local volunteers.

Monday, those same people set up the room with the gifts, stockings and clothing given out today.

Staff Sgt. Clinton Barnes was one of them. Along with dozens of others from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, he decided to volunteer as payback for all he has received.

"People helped me along the way," he said. "You realize once you get to the point where you're in a position to help, you do. It feels good."

Staff Sgt. Chauncey Mimmick agreed. The South Carolina native said it's important to help those in need all the time -- but especially during the holiday season.

"Military people aren't necessarily rich people," he said. "But we're definitely more well off than these families. I usually do something like this every Christmas."

Some of the airmen in attendance this morning escorted people through the room, helping them carry their bags, boxes and stockings. Others carried turkeys outside for each one.

Ben applied for help in providing his 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter with warm clothing and food for Christmas this year. The toys, he said, were a bonus.

"I don't want my kids to be cold or hungry," he said. "Now, they will be comfortable when it gets cold and have something to play with, too."

Rhoda Rawls is in her 30th year as a volunteer at the event. As president of the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary, she has seen the need for something more than toys and candy for the needy during the holidays.

"The food and the clothes are just as important," she said. "And sometimes, those people who are low-income are ashamed to ask."

She has seen scenarios like that before -- even back when her organization cleaned used toys for distribution at the event.

"You can see how hard it is for them," she said. "But they are really grateful."

And watching Christmas miracles unfold for the 400 families who will receive assistance this year is what brings her back every December.

"I just think helping others who are in need is a rewarding feeling," she said. "And these people just have a natural desire to help."

Mary couldn't wait to thank them. Once her gifts were loaded into her truck, she sat in the parking lot looking back at the Salvation Army building.

"I don't know what to say so it's hard to find the words," she said. "Those people just made my baby's Christmas and I hope they always remember that. Those are good people right there."