Released 3 January 2011
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Salvation Army spreads holiday cheer with toy donation program
By Tyler Estep, Gwinnett Daily Post
The Salvation Army Lawrenceville distributed toys to about 860 families and 2,000 or so children throughout the day Saturday, closing out its 2010 Angel Tree program. Click here for a photo slideshow.
LAWRENCEVILLE - When Renee Green's 9-year-old daughter gets her new bike on Christmas morning, she's going to be floored.
"(Both daughters) are going to be shocked," Green said Saturday outside the Lawrenceville Salvation Army. "But she's going to be especially shocked just because it has ‘Princess and the Frog' on the bike. She's just going to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.'"
Salvation Army Lawrenceville distributed toys to about 860 families and 2,000 or so children throughout the day Saturday, closing out its 2010 Angel Tree program.
Even though appointments were made in one-hour blocks for families in need to pick up their donated gifts, lines wrapped all around the building on Sugarloaf Parkway as parents showed up early for the smallest chance of securing their child's Christmas gifts a little sooner.
While that's not necessarily a change from past years, the number of first-time recipients has been steadily climbing, Salvation Army Capt. Cameron Henderson said.
"Each year we obviously have people that come and ask us for help," he said. "But this year, we're also seeing people who aren't used to having to ask for help. Because of the economy, it's different, and they're asking for help maybe for the first time."
"It's difficult that they are, but it warms our hearts that we're able to be here for them."
While the Angel Tree project - which enables sponsors to provide gifts ranging from bikes to doll houses to winter clothing for a specific child - went well again this year, the Salvation Army still needs people to help them help others.
Across the board, fundraising efforts by the Salvation Army are falling short as more and more people are in need. Kettle and other financial donations across the Atlanta area are down almost 20 percent this year, Henderson said, while those asking for help have practically doubled in number.
Donations can be made online at www.onlineredkettle.org. Inserting a ZIP code makes sure donor funds go to their area, Henderson said.
"Almost twice as many people are asking us for help this year as compared to last year," Henderson said. "The numbers are astounding how many new people are needing help with utilities, rent assistance, prescriptions. It's hard to keep track of it all."
As parents filed through Saturday, visible signs of tension and nervousness turned into audible sighs of relief and smiles as they secured soon-to-be gifts. Thanks to sponsors from across the city of Lawrenceville and Gwinnett County and huge plastic bags stuffed with toys, their children would have a Christmas.
"We give it to the parents so the kids may not ever know that it came from the Salvation Army," Henderson said. "But the parents will know that they were able to take care of their kids this year. That's one of the most heartwarming parts."
Green, one of hundreds of mothers and fathers loading up Saturday, agreed.
"This is just really nice to know that there are people here that can help, especially when you're struggling," Green said. "Just with my two girls alone, I pay like $200 a week in child care. So Christmas is a stretch.
"This is just so helpful."