November 16, 2012 10:25:23 AM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
As the Christmas season approaches, children anxiously write their lists to Santa, begging for the top toy of the season. For some parents, fulfilling their children's wish list is as simple as swiping a credit card. For others, penny-pinching efforts are not enough to buy that one toy that will bring a smile to their child's face on Christmas morning. For those families who can't bear the thought of disappointing their children, the Salvation Army is ready to lend a hand.
The Salvation Army's annual Christmas Angel Tree Child donation drive begins Friday, and the names of more than 800 children will appear on paper angels hung from two Christmas trees inside Walmart and one at Leigh Mall.
Major Eric Roberts, of the Salvation Army, said the charity drive will benefit children throughout Lowndes, Clay, Monroe and Noxubee counties.
Traditionally, someone who wants to donate gifts to the needy children of the area will take an "angel" from the tree and shop for the items the child requested. The Christmas wishlist items range from clothing to toys.
Roberts said nearly 900 families applied to be included on the Christmas trees, but due to the Salvation Army's strict guidelines, some were not eligible. The Salvation Army requires families requesting assistance to show proof of income, along with a list of monthly bills, to demonstrate need. The organization also checks with other area goodwill organizations to make sure families are not on more than one list.
Families come to the Salvation Army to collect the gifts for their children.
Roberts asked that the donated gifts remain unwrapped so the organization can make sure each child in the family gets the same dollar amount of presents.
In addition to the Angel Tree, the Salvation Army will soon begin their annual red kettle campaign, one of the major donation drives the organization holds each year during the holiday season.
Roberts said they ask people to find it in their hearts to give to both the Angel Tree and red kettle campaigns if possible, but by citizens donating toys, the Salvation Army does not have to dip into their red kettle fund to provide Christmas gifts for the children.
One of the best parts of his job is the moment the parents arrive and realize their children will have Christmas after all, Roberts said.
"You see their faces and they're just so grateful," he said.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah