11/25/13 — Salvation Army hopes to bring gifts to children

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Salvation Army hopes to bring gifts to children

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on November 25, 2013 1:46 PM

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Mackenzie Anderson, 3, of Goldsboro chooses a tag bearing the name of a needy child off The Salvation Army's Angel Tree at Berkeley Mall. Trees similar to this one are set up around town for residents to choose a child to help this holiday season.

Seven-year-old Ana wants a book for Christmas. Damarcus, 5, wants a ball. And 6-year-old Miranda wants a baby doll. All 12-year-old Allison wants is a toy car.

The Salvation Army is asking Wayne County families to help make a Christmas for these and other needy children by taking a tag off one of the organization's Angel Trees this year.

The tag includes the child's clothing size, a toy he or she wants and a wish list of some smaller items.

"We were kind of surprised this year," Salvation Army Lt. Julie Igleheart said. "Usually a lot of kids will ask for Xboxes and things like that. But when the mothers came in with their children's wish list, a lot of them wanted small items. One little boy wanted a Thomas the Train -- and that's all he wanted."

Although the size of the gift has gotten smaller, the number of children on the Salvation Army's Angel Trees has gotten larger.

Lt. Igleheart said there were between 225 and 230 families who needed Christmas help last year. The number grew to 300 this year. From those families, there are 600 children's names on the Angel Trees.

"Something we haven't done in past years, this year we asked specifically if they needed a coat or a pair of shoes," Lt. Igleheart said. "So if you choose an angel off the Angel Tree that has a shoe size or coat size, it's because the parents have specifically asked for that pair of shoes or that coat for their children. A lot of parents this year asked for coats and heavy jackets for their children."

The process is easy. You take a tag off one of the Angel Trees located at Berkeley Mall, K&W Cafeteria, Fitness Extreme or Gold's Gym, purchase a gift or two and take them back to either the place where the tree is located or the Salvation Army no later than Dec. 13. All gifts have to be unwrapped.

"But people may also donate wrapping paper, bows and tags with their gifts," Lt. Igleheart said. "That kind of gives the mom or dad a little bit more input into their child's present. Even if they can't afford to buy a present for their child, they can at least wrap it. I think that's a great thing."

Lt. Igleheart said companies, church groups and civic organizations have adopted several angels in past years and put up their own Angel Tree.

"Or a group might want to adopt a family, and they could come by here and I can give them a whole family," Lt. Igleheart said. "There are a lot of single mothers and single dads this year who came in to apply for Christmas help. And it's not the same story over and over again. Some lost a job, some families the wife and husband separated and things like that.

"But all the families were screened really well, and we saw there was a need there. It's not just because they want us to buy Christmas for their child. We are trying to make sure every child has a smile on their face Christmas morning."

Like the little girl last year whose father was in prison. Her grandmother, who was on Social Security, took care of the little girl.

"We called the grandmother about the Christmas program, and she said no, they were all right. But finally she told me a few things the little girl wanted."

Then a woman called wanting to help a single mom or a grandmother taking care of a child. Lt. Igleheart made the match. The woman and her Sunday school class bought the little girl several outfits, a winter coat, a pair of shoes and a couple of Barbie dolls.

"On distribution day, I brought the bag out to the grandmother, and she asked was all that for her little granddaughter," Lt. Igleheart said. "I told her yes, and tears welled up in her eyes. Then we rolled out a pink bike for her granddaughter, and she just boo-hooed for 30 minutes. I did, too."

Lt. Igleheart said people who receive the Christmas help are very appreciative of anything they get.

"It touches your heart when you know you're helping out somebody," she said. "If the Salvation Army didn't do its Christmas program, there would be some children getting up on Christmas morning with nothing under their tree."