More than 2,000 kids will be getting gifts this Christmas thanks to the generosity of the Springfield community and the work of the Springfield Salvation Army and its volunteers.
About 300 volunteers were labeling and preparing gifts with the goal to hand out the gifts Thursday, said Development Director of the Springfield Salvation Army Ryan Ray. The toy drive is meaningful to many children, he said.
“A lot of these children throughout the year don’t get very much and often times what they do get might be hand-me-downs or second-hand stuff,” he said. “That’s fine but for Christmas, that one time of year, we want to them to wake up Christmas morning to as close to what they want as possible. That’s the beauty of the Angel Tree Program.”
Parents came into the Salvation Army and signed their kids up for Christmas Assistance. They told the Salvation Army what their child wanted this year and the organization created tree tags which were sent throughout Springfield and the area. Residents then volunteered to buy the gifts for the kids — most of whom they don’t know.
“This will be over 2,000 kids,” Ray said. “That’s 400 more kids this year than we did last year. It seems like it grows every year.”
A popular item this year is bicycles. The early bicycle count this season was to distribute 154 bikes. The Salvation Army is now on target to give out more than 200 bikes to youth. That’s about 140 more than last year.
“It has been awesome to see what people in the community will do for these kids and we have a lot of bikes to give out this year,” Ray said. “For us, bikes are far more than just a toy. They will be getting bikes and it’s a gateway for adventure and a means of transportation for a lot of these kids. It’s a means to get to safe places in the community.”
Melissa Jeffery volunteered to help get the gifts ready. She said the program helped her family and she wanted to pass it on.
“It meant a lot. It helped me the couple years I had nothing to give to my kids,” she said. “I do it because I want help out with the community.”