Salvation Army ups annual toy giveaway
Brenda Whitaker said that last year, her two sons picked the names of other children to give gifts to through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, which provides gifts to children of families in need.
This year, Whitaker, a single parent, was waiting in line on Christmas Eve to get some additional gifts for her own children, who are 10 years old and 11 months old. Last year, she said she had more financial support from friends and family.
Whitaker, who said she graduated in May and now has an associate’s degree, said she wants a job as a research assistant. She said she’s had interviews, but said she believes companies are looking for workers with more experience. She said she plans to go back to school.
“I’m hoping for a bike for my son,” Whitaker said, as she waited in a line that stretched beside an Ellis Road warehouse where The Salvation Army was giving toys away on Monday. “A job would be even better.”
The Salvation Army that serves Durham, Orange and Person counties initially supplied gifts to 1,600 children through the Angle Tree program this year, said Martin Banning, director of resource development for The Salvation Army.
On top of that, the organization was able to serve additional children off of a waitlist. Banning said that was because of additional community donations, as well as because of a $7,500 check that came in from a single donor last week.
Debbie Avolin, director of social services for The Salvation Army, estimated that about 300 families, representing about 700 individual children, were assisted Sunday.
The additional families picked up toys at The Salvation Army’s “Toy Shop” on Ellis Road in Durham on Monday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We do have a waitlist – we try not turn any family away if we have the means to help with Christmas,” Banning said.
Durham resident Frederick Cannady was waiting in line for gifts for his nephew on Monday. His mother couldn’t be there, he said, because she’s currently in jail.
“He’s very excited,” Cannady said of his nephew’s expectations for Christmas.
Phyllis Roberts of Durham said she was waiting in line to get gifts for her 8-month-old son. Roberts said she has a fixed income, and after paying her bills, she said there’s not much left.
She said she receives Social Security Disability Insurance payments, and is also a client of Housing for New Hope, which is a nonprofit that serves the homeless and people at-risk for homelessness in Durham and Orange Counties.
The organization provides housing and crisis assistance, transitional housing, as well as affordable apartments.
Her son was also able to get gifts in a program through a sponsorship program, she said, including clothing and toys.
“You got to do what you got to do,” she said. “I need the help.”
Durham resident Angela Gamble was waiting in line for gifts for her 4- and 5-year-old children. She said she doesn’t get paid until after Christmas, so the gifts she was picking up would allow them to receive something on the holiday.
“It’s not about the toys, it’s about Jesus Christ. It’s not about giving, it’s about being thankful for the things you have,” she said of Christmas. “Whatever they decide to give me is a blessing,” she also said.