PARKERSBURG - Because of the generosity of the community, more than 3,000 children throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley will have a good Christmas as the Salvation Army Parkersburg Corps distributed donated items through the annual Angel Tree program Friday.
Before the event began, the gymnasium at the Corps' Fifth Street location was filled with large lawn and leaf bags brimming with clothes, toys and games while the basement was filled with hundreds of bicycles for boys and girls of all ages and sizes.
The children were "adopted" by members of the community through the 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.
Jim Maley, co-chair for the Thanksgiving/Christmas committee for the Salvation Army of Parkersburg Corps, points out a large pile of bags of toys, clothes and other gifts donated for one family by community members for the Angel Tree Christmas program at the Fifth Street offices during the distribution Friday morning. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
Volunteers carry bags of toys and bicycles to cars for families during the Salvation Army of Parkersburg Corps toy distribution Friday. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
These tags include the child's name, age, clothing and shoe size and a list of desired items.
"Every year it amazes me what the community does for others," said Jim Maley, co-chair of the organization's Thanksgiving/Christmas committee. "This year we set a record for the number of kids we helped."
While the number of families who sought assistance this year in Wood County is down from around 500 to 478, the number of children increased from roughly 1,000 to 1,100, according to Lt. Mechelle Henry with the Corps.
"We are helping bigger families this year and are happy to do it," Maley said.
One of those families included seven children who received everything on their lists thanks to the giving spirit of one area company.
"The company adopted the entire family and the employees made sure that not only the children got what they wanted but also bought a few things for the parents that were not on any lists," Maley said.
Volunteers worked tirelessly throughout Thursday and Friday to get the donated clothes, toys and games separated out for each family.
"Last night we were buying gifts for about 70 Angels who had not been adopted," said longtime volunteer Teresa Meyer. "It is a blessing to be part of this because you see how God works through the generosity of people."
Meyer said as people brought in toys for donation Thursday many asked if more was needed and would come back with items children had requested.
"The toys just kept coming," she said. "It was wonderful."
This was the first year for Seth Noorbakhsh of Vienna to volunteer his time helping to carry bicycles and bags to cars for parents.
"I am home from Yale for the holidays and thought this sounded like a good way to spend a day giving back," he said. "The most amazing part is that more than 1,000 kids will have their own Christmas; everything is all individualized."
The food baskets and toys handed out at the Salvation Army's Fifth Street facility were for the families who reside in Wood County and do not include the gifts and food for the families in the other five counties - Calhoun, Jackson, Ritchie, Wirt and Pleasants - the organization covers, said Maley.
"William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, said to take care of the basic needs before you can consider taking care of a person's salvation," Maley said. "By doing this every year we are making these families whole for Christmas, which is a need; it's not as important as food, but it is a need."
Meyer said she has been giving her time to the Christmas distribution for so long she would not know the holiday season without it.
"This means Christmas to me," she said. "Being here keeps me grounded and puts the true meaning of Christmas in perspective for me."