The children of more than 400 Loudoun County families, that otherwise would receive no gifts, will awake Christmas morning to find Santa didn’t forget them.
Through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, residents of Loudoun County donated 1,800 toys, clothes and other necessities to those in need.
Volunteers with The Salvation Army of Loudoun County were armed with bicycles, diapers, Dora dolls, warm coats and even Ipods to give to families Monday at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne. Families began arriving at 9 a.m. and will continue to pick up their donations until 6 p.m.
For families struggling in a down economy, the gifts mean the difference between paying the utility bills or putting food on the table.
“I’m a single mom, with no parents here to help,” said Patricia Varrera of Leesburg as she waited to pick up gifts for her 4-year-old daughter. “It really helps a lot. [My daughter], she’s excited for Santa this year. She keeps asking ‘mom is Santa coming today? Is Santa coming today? I’m a good girl, mommy.’ I hope she got something she asked for.”
Salvation Army Capt. Allen Tanner said the need this year for toys grew compared to last year when 1,300 gifts were distributed.
Many of the toys were donated by Loudoun County companies, such as Orbital, Raytheon and Catoctin School of Music. The rest were given by caring Loudoun County residents who picked names off of Angel Trees set up throughout the area, including Dulles Town Center and Wal-Mart.
“That’s how we were able to do this, by the community coming together,” Tanner said.
The need, Tanner said, is still growing. The Salvation Army has already distributed toys to families on two waiting lists and he hopes they can continue the momentum.
“Loudoun County is a very supportive community and no one ever says no,” he said.
The distribution center was set up in the basement of the National Conference Center, which was donated by Kurt Krause, chairman of the center’s board of directors. Krause has already donated the space for next year as well, Tanner said.
Judy A. Brittle, development director for The Salvation Army’s Loudoun County chapter, said the day has been bittersweet for the volunteers.
“When you see the parents come up and pick up the boxes for the kids, it’s just overwhelming,” Brittle said. “The donors in Loudoun County are magnificent. They give and they give and give to children.”
Still, while coffers are full during the holiday season, it’s difficult to find volunteers for other needs, she said.
The Salvation Army provides not only clothing and toys for the needy, but helps with food and utility bills as well. That money comes through donations and the biggest campaign each year starts with the organization’s bell ringers.
The organization has 22 locations in Loudoun County where volunteers are allowed to ring bells to collect monetary donations. There simply aren’t enough volunteers to fill the spaces, Brittle said.
“If I can get them as excited about ringing the bell as this, that means food on someone’s table, that means someone doesn’t have to go without heat,” she said.
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