Area Salvation Army preps for annual toy distribution

PARKERSBURG -Volunteers and officials with the Salvation Army of Parkersburg Corps are working around the clock to be ready for the annual Angel Tree program toy distribution today.

“We are as ready as we will ever be,” said Lt. Mechelle Henry with the Corps. “We are like Santa double and triple checking the list to make sure it matches the items in the bags so the kids get what they asked for and what the amazing community has bought for them.”

Roughly 3,000 children from more than 1,500 families in the organization’s coverage area of Wood, Calhoun, Jackson, Ritchie, Wirt and Pleasants counties. Of those, 478 families including 1,044 children are from Wood County. The gymnasium at the Corps’ Fifth Street location is filled with large lawn and leaf bags of clothes, toys and games separated out for each family while the meeting, nursery, and two other rooms in the basement are filled with several hundred bicycles for boys and girls of all ages and sizes.

“It is truly amazing what our community does every year for those in need,” Henry said. “Every year hundreds of children are given a good Christmas thanks to the kindness and generosity of those who adopted the angels.”

The gifts to be distributed today were purchased by area residents who “adopted” the children through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. Angel Trees include Christmas trees set up in businesses throughout the organization’s coverage area decorated with information tags representing one child each. These tags include the child’s name, age, clothing and shoe size and a list of desired items.

“The trees are doing better this year than last,” Henry said. “I think people learned more about the trees this year and realized they can make a difference.”

Not only were the majority of children on the Angel Trees adopted by the community, but there are still others in need of having their wishes fulfilled, Henry said.

“Unfortunately we still need more,” she said. “We’ve had about a dozen families come in on emergency status in need of Christmas for their kids and because there is no time to put more angels on the trees, we can promise presents, but not exactly what they are asking for.”

The goal of the Angel Tree program is to make sure every child has a nice Christmas.

“We do this program to help our community,” Henry said. “We have people who wait until they hit rock bottom before they come to us for help and we don’t want them to do that; we are here for them, to help them.”

Henry also said that there are likely people who want to help, but do not know how.

Money used to purchase the Christmas dinner food baskets each family will receive with their gifts as well as presents for angels not taken from the trees is donated to the Salvation Army through the annual red kettle drive.

Since Nov. 8, bellringers have been manning the traditional crimson kettles outside numerous area stores collecting change and other monetary donations for the season.

This year’s goal is $175,000. Funds left over after the Christmas programs will go towards funding the Salvation Army’s year round food bank, utility bill assistance and other programs.

Last year’s drive netted $174,000, while this summer’s Christmas in July red kettle drive brought in $4,000.

Red kettles will remain at store entrances through Christmas Eve and volunteers are still needed, Henry said. Anyone interested in spending an hour helping to collect funds is encouraged to contact the Salvation Army at 304-485-4529 for available times and locations.

“The little that you can give will do a world of good,” Henry said. “You don’t have to give generously, you just have to give.”