The Springfield chapter of the Salvation Army will give a record number of local children toys this Christmas — but it’s not the kind of record anyone wants to break.
“Last year was 1,700 (children), and that was the most,” Capt. Justin Caldwell said.
This year, 2,100 children have been approved to receive help at Christmas from the local Salvation Army.
“The need is up,” Caldwell said. “The need is huge.”
However, the toys that are given out — every child is promised at least two good toys — aren’t magically made by elves.
The Salvation Army will hold its annual toy drive from Monday until Dec. 7, and is in need of unwrapped new toys and presents for children of all ages.
The local Salvation Army is unique, according to Caldwell, in that it also helps teenagers.
Toys can be dropped off during that time at the Salvation Army, 15 S. Plum St., at most township fire stations in Clark County and at all seven Springfield Fire and Rescue Division stations.
“They’re doing the greatest good in the community. Why wouldn’t we want to partner with them?” said Korge Mori, a 10-year Springfield firefighter and secretary of Springfield Professional Firefighters Local 333.
The city fire division, Mori said, enjoys the support of the community.
“We don’t want to take that for granted,” he said.
The annual toy drive begins each fall with a motorcycle toy run by the Highway Hikers Motorcycle Club. This year, a record number of bikes — 2,093 — took part.
The two-week application period to receive assistance has passed, Caldwell said, but it’s not something many families take lightly. Asking for help is harder than it sounds.
“This was the worst moment of their life,” he explained. “Some of them break down in front of you. Some men, you look at them and they’re broken.”
But, Caldwell himself knows what it’s like to be a kid on the receiving end of the Salvation Army’s help.
Caldwell and his wife, Lt. Evelyn Caldwell, took command of the Springfield Salvation Army this past July.
Growing up, he recalled, his mother was raising three kids while going through a divorce and working nights as a nurse.
“She thought she could make it,” Caldwell said. “But, it just didn’t work out that way with the bills.”
For Caldwell, then 8, Christmas morning that year seemed as magical as any other.
“I remember these huge stuffed animals,” he said.
They, along with other presents and food, came from their local Salvation Army.
“Salvation Army stepped in,” he said, “and saved us.”