12/18/17 — Angels to 800 children

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Angels to 800 children

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on December 18, 2017 5:50 AM

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Anthony Best, 17, pushes a bicycle to a car for a woman Thursday during the annual Salvation Army Angel Tree giveaway.

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Volunteer John Cody carries a load of toys and clothing for a family during the annual Salvation Army Angel Tree giveaway Thursday. Each family also got a box of food for the holiday season.

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Jamie Johnson fits a toy scooter into the trunk of a car Thursday. It was donated to the Salvation Army Angel Tree program this year. There were 784 children on the list to be helped.

More than 800 Wayne County children will wake up Christmas morning this year with toys under their tree, thanks to the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program.

Distribution day was Thursday at the old Coca-Cola warehouse, which had been donated to the organization to store toys about three weeks prior to the event and also hand them out the day of the event.

Capt. Sherrie Stokes with the Salvation Army said the need was great this year.

"We had a makeup application day because there were a lot of families calling who missed the application day," she said. "I think that's where our extras came in."

In addition, the organization will have emergency cases coming in this week for Christmas help. Some missed application days and are getting no assistance from anywhere else.

Stokes also said that people taking names off the Angel Trees were not purchasing multiple items as they have done in past years. But the children are given more than one toy.

That meant the Salvation Army had to spend $7,000 to make up the difference.

"We spent $800 last year to get all the toys we needed," Stokes said. "We bought in-bulk for the 0-to-2 age group and the 10-to-12 age group. Those are always the ones forgotten because they are hard to buy for."

Toys for Tots also helped out this year.

"I contacted them and they gave us two kinds of board games, telescopes, headphones, fingernail polish sets, miniature LEGOs, firetrucks, trikes and scooters," Stokes said.

Help also came from other sources.

Wayne Memorial Hospital adopted 78 children from the Angel Trees. Mount Olive Pickle Co. took 50. Several other small businesses adopted children.

Spokes of Eastern North Carolina donated 95 new bicycles. Community members donated another 95 new bicycles.

Employees from Southern Management took a whole day to put all the bicycles together. And David Simmons, property manager for the warehouse where the distribution was held, sent some of his employees to help out.

Volunteers also came from the Salvation Army's women's auxiliary and church members and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

One of those was Senior Airman John Cody. It was the 21-year-old's first time helping during distribution day.

"I thought it would be nice to help kids for Christmas and help people who need the help," he said. "My supervisor let me have the time to come and do this. It makes me feel great just knowing I'm able to be part of their happiness on Christmas day and make them smile at Christmas."

Stokes said there was also a woman who lost everything in a house fire and a disabled man with a child whose mother is not involved with the family, who didn't know what he was going to do for his child for Christmas.

The distribution process was different this year. Instead of people picking up their items inside a building following a short devotion, it was a drive-through event.

"I think it went faster," Stokes said.

But for several hours, cars were lined up on George Street where the warehouse is located.

Families got toys, clothing and a food box and some also got a bicycle.

"If not for the program, some children wouldn't have anything under the tree," Stokes said.

"It's overwhelming, but it's humbling. It's even more humbling to know that we didn't do this on our own, but with the community's help. We give a huge thank you to our community for stepping up to the plate and helping out."