Salvation Army, Marines join forces to spread Christmas joy

December 20, 2011|By DAN DEARTH |
  • Volunteer Janell Ocker grabs stuffed toys from a box to give to this year's Toys for Tots recipients Tuesday morning at Long Meadow Shopping Center.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

Hagerstown resident Amber Stouffer carefully surveyed a sea of donated toys and picked out some stuffed animals that she plans to give to her 13-month-old daughter on Christmas morning.

“I just want to make sure my daughter has a good Christmas this year,” she said.

Stouffer was among hundreds of Washington County parents who participated Tuesday in the annual toy/food giveaway sponsored by the Salvation Army and the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program.

The event was held in the former CVS Pharmacy building at Long Meadow Shopping Center north of Hagerstown.

Jim Mills, chairman of Washington County Toys for Tots, said the effort began Oct. 1, when members of the organization started setting up collection boxes at 220 spots across the county. As of Tuesday, donors had contributed nearly 15,000 toys.

“It’s just to make sure every child wakes up on Christmas morning with a smile,” Mills said. “It’s nice to let them know that someone cares. It might give them a better outlook on life.”

He said toys that are left over after the two-day giveaway, which ends Wednesday, will be given to SanMar Children’s Home and other charities.

Mills lauded the Salvation Army for partnering with Toys for Tots. He said the Salvation Army plays an important role by screening the families to ensure they meet the income standards.

Salvation Army Maj. Karen Lyle said the event is open to families that are at or below the poverty level.

A family of four, for example, must earn $22,350 a year or less to be eligible, according to the 2011 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines.

Salvation Army volunteers and the Toys for Tots program provided toys for 1,100 families, or about 2,700 children, Lyle said.

In addition to the toys that the Marines collected, the Salvation Army used $20,000 from its Christmas kettle drive to buy things for infants, toddlers and children from ages 9 to 12, she said.

“Those are the age groups people aren’t sure what to buy,” Lyle said.

In addition to the toys, volunteers gave each family a box loaded with nonperishable foods, and gift cards from Martin’s to buy perishable items, such as meat and milk.

Patricia Lawrence of Hagerstown, who volunteered to help at this year’s giveaway, said she was on the receiving end years ago.

She said the event is all about putting smiles on children’s faces and showing them the meaning of Christmas.

“This is where I started with my children,” Lawrence said. “I used to be in this position. Now, I’m giving back.”

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