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Salvation Army holds giveaway

December 21, 2000

Salvation Army holds giveaway



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


The Salvation Army was giving it all away in Hagerstown Wednesday: toys, clothes, ingredients for Christmas dinner.

Major Georgia Henderson lost track of how many needy Washington County residents came. "It was easily 3,000," she said.

Many came for the toys.

In one room of the Salvation Army's chapel facing George Street, wooden tables were piled high with boxes of plastic dinosaurs and Barbie dolls and "Ting-A-Ling" telephones.

One table was covered with stuffed bears wearing jumpsuits, suspenders, dresses and pajamas with feet.

"We buy about 1,300 bears wholesale," said Henderson, who is commanding officer of the local Salvation Army with her husband, Major Robert Henderson.

Rhonda Overcash of Hagerstown had two daughters and two sons to choose presents for, ranging in age from 1 to 9. The girls prefer dolls and the boys like cars, she said.

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A woman from Sharpsburg, also looking for a car for her son and a doll for her daughter, said the selection is good every year.

Henderson said a kettle drive and mail solicitations pay for the day.

Each "shopper" wanders around the room with a Salvation Army volunteer helper in tow. Together, they fill a large black trash bag.

Henderson said it is important to let the gift selection be as personal as possible for parents. "That gives them ownership, too," she said. "They get to choose."

Traffic in the toy room was brisk. Cheery holiday tunes could be heard above the chatter and the rustling of shopping bags.

In another room, people lined up for turkeys, stuffing, milk, bread and other Christmas meal staples to bring home.

Community groups and clubs helped stuff small toys into hundreds of mesh stockings that were given away.

The Salvation Army also had an "angel" program in which sponsors bought gifts for children they did not know. Church pews were filled with bulging numbered bags awaiting pick-up.

Michelle Rickett, one of about 50 volunteers scurrying around to fill requests, has seen both sides of charity.

In the fall of 1999, her son, nine years old at the time, accidentally burned down the family's house on Buena Vista Avenue while he played with a lighter.

The Salvation Army came to the rescue with vouchers for food and clothes. "They provided our Christmas that year because we had no money," Rickett said.

Her three children were on the "angel" list for presents.

This year, the Ricketts are sponsoring two children in return.

And Michelle Rickett offered others the same boost she got.

"I feel like a kid," she said standing amid rows of toys. "There's all kinds of neat stuff, like you wouldn't believe - Pokmon cards, brand new baby outfits. ... This is like Christmas. This is fun."

Georgia Henderson said she tells volunteers to consider what would happen if a bad break struck their own family. "These are hard-working people who just had a hard time at Christmas," she said.

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