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This army brightens holiday for hundreds

December 20, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Jeanette Divelbiss and her family will have a merrier Christmas this year thanks to the Hagerstown Salvation Army.

"I'm battling cancer, and as the only income in the family, well, there wouldn't be much of a Christmas this year without some help," Divelbiss said as she received toys and food at Friday's distribution to more than 800 eligible families.

For the third year, the Salvation Army set up inside the former Routzahn's furniture store in the Long Meadow Shopping Center. Pre-approved clients showed up at their assigned appointment times through the morning and into the afternoon.

Volunteers and board members met the clients at the door and accompanied them through a pre-arranged route, where they picked up bags of canned and packaged food, perishables and toys.

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Clients said toys were provided for the correct gender and age of the children.

"We have about the same number of clients as last year," said Maj. Butch Mallard of the Salvation Army in Hagerstown.

On one table, hundreds of stuffed teddy bears sat waiting to find new homes. Each was dressed in clothing made by a Salvation Army volunteer.

Along with dolls, games and trucks, there were lots of skateboards peeking out of the grocery carts that passed by the final checkpoint Friday.

Kelly Stottlemyer has four children, ranging in age from 1 to 10.

"I've been coming for a couple of years," the 32-year-old Hagerstown woman said. "It's really wonderful ... they're so nice here."

Although her husband works, Stottlemyer said the family can't quite make ends meet, especially since she lost her worker's compensation in October after two years.

"When it comes to Christmas, we just couldn't pull things out of a hat," she said.

Maurice Adams had a similar story of gratitude.

"It's tough out there, but the Salvation Army is Santa Claus to us," the 43-year-old Hagerstown man said.

Lorrie Carlin, 38, was gathering toys for her grandson, a 2-year-old who lives with Carlin and Carlin's unemployed daughter. Her cart held a football and a truck set for the youngster.

"I used to come here when my children were young," Carlin said. "Now this helps make Christmas a little merrier for my grandson."

A resident of Hancock, Divelbiss said everyone she has dealt with at the Salvation Army has been very nice to her and her family, which includes husband Michael, and children Amber, 11, Christopher, 9, and Elijah, 5.

"I'm very realistic about what I need and how I need to get help," Divelbiss said. "Right from the beginning, they've been so nice to me here."

That niceness comes easily for Janlee Viands, who with her colleague Chris Henry, from the Washington County Library, has volunteered for a number of years.

"Chris and I are both new board members, too," Viands said. "It's wonderful to be a part of the work the Salvation Army does."

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