The Salvation Army, partnered with the Stokes County community, is helping to make sure 467 children have a good Christmas this year.
Director of Operations Lisa Parrish said the annual toy distribution to needy children in the county had been a success this year.
“This program is led mostly by volunteers which keeps our overhead costs low,” she said. “Gerald Jones volunteers his time to coordinate the effort, DSS takes the applications, Pam Hooker volunteers all of the data entry work, Walnut Cove Fire and Rescue coordinates the distribution in the eastern part of the county, Hope Pregnancy Center provides space free of charge for the west Stokes distribution, and a number of volunteers and groups provide the volunteer labor to pack toys and distribute them. We have a number of local businesses and organizations, including the public libraries, Sam’s Pizza, Dairo, Friend2Friend Boutique, and Town and Country that serve as places for stocking and toy donations.”
She said the need for toys had dropped this year back to the level needed in 2013.
“This year we will help 467 children,” she said. “This is down from last year when we had a 40% increase in numbers served (over 650 children) but similar to 2013 Christmas numbers when we served 479 children.”
The program provides toys for children from low income families and also helps to provide a Christmas for 38 foster children in the county.
“The Christmas program serves the entire county,” said Parrish. “We will touch the lives of children in every Stokes County zip code. When people donate time, money, toys and clothing, they are reaching children across all areas of the County. It is a good example of individuals and groups banding together across communities to meet the total need in Stokes County.”
In Walnut Cove the Walnut Cove Fire and Rescue Squad again partnered with the Salvation Army and Our Place Tavern to distribute toys on Saturday.
“We helped approximately 96 families and about 225 children,” said Walnut Cove Deputy Chief Danny Hughes. “We fed them hot dogs, chips and drinks when they came and we sent a box of food home with every family.”
Hughes said this year department staff helped pack the bags so they knew what every child was getting.
“We also included the Forestry Service int he event because they are doing a lot of fire prevention for us,” he said. “We invited them to bring Smokey the Bear with them.”
He said the partnership with Our Place Tavern, a local business which invites its customers to contribute to the toy distribution each year, was particularly helpful.
“Some of the stuff we were missing, they actually went and purchased themselves and brought it to us,” said Hughes. “It would be very hard for us to do it without them. They are outstanding people.”
Parrish said the community had really come together to provide enough toys for the need.
“Donor response was good,” said Parrish. “We would like to get to the point where 100percent of the toys are generated from Stokes County donors. We are not quite there yet but believe we can get there. Twelve individuals and groups adopted 35 children this year through the Angel Tree Program. We also had many more individuals and groups donate new toys and clothing to the effort . We did use Facebook and Twitter to get the word out and those outlets generated some new donors this year.
“Some key groups that provided donations included Duke Energy Belews Creek Steam Station, YMCA, King Moravian Church, Salem Chapel Fire Department, Double Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Baileytown Christian Church, and Walnut Cove Church of Christ,” she added. “Other donors such as the King Rotary Club donated money to offset toy purchases that we had to make to fill the need. We also added a new drop off location for toys – Friend2Friend Boutique in King which provided a couple of promotional days in their store for our effort. We generated some new donors from the effort made by the Boutique.
She noted that she would like to grow the Angel Tree program in future years.
“Angel Tree donors spend a good deal of time and money buying gifts for specific children,” said Parrish. “The gifts, many of them clothing items, are personalized and tend to be nicer items than general toy donations. It would be great if we could gain 50 new angel tree sponsors in 2016. We had a tree at the Allegacy Financial Center. We hope to have an angel tree at the new King Walmart next year. This should be a great source of new donors and promotion of the program.”
Parrish said while the point of the program was to make sure every child had a good Christmas, the event was also beneficial to donors and volunteers.
“I had a mother of four call a couple of weeks ago,” said Parrish. “She told me that her children were getting at an age where they needed to give back and think beyond their own needs. She took a family of four kids and she and her children purchased items together for the children. She was using the experience as a teaching moment in her parenting.”
Another donor highlighted the joy the program brought to her life in an email.
“I am so excited about the gifts for those two little girls,” wrote the donor. “I would like to be a mouse when they get them. Now that is what Christmas is all about.”
Gerald Jones who manages volunteers for the event the King area agreed.
“We had plenty of volunteers to help us do everything we needed to do,” he said. “We have had youth groups from churches, ball teams, girl scouts and we have had families that just wanted to help. They have come from every group.”
He said volunteers had been working on sorting and “shopping” for the needy children for about two weeks.
We are just so thankful for the volunteers and the people who donate toys so that kids can have a good Christmas,” he added.
One volunteer, Karen Barker, said her kids specifically asked to volunteer this year after helping out last year.
“I like helping people,” said her daughter, Presley.
Another young volunteer, Chestnut Grove eight grader Zach Poole, said he was helping partially as a volunteer from the National Junior Honor Society.
“I have fun doing this,” he said. “It is fun to come out and help people. It is nice to talk to them and tell them Merry Christmas.”
Parrish said the toy donation is just one of the programs the Salvation Army spearheads to help Stokes County.
“The Salvation Army is working each week of the year to meet the needs of Stokes County residents,” she said. “We are a primary provider of emergency financial assistance in Stokes County. We provide utility payments for past due bills to ensure that families have continuous utility services in their homes. On occasion, we will pay a rent or mortgage payment or provide a hotel stay for those who are homeless or stranded.
“In our last completed fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2014-Sept. 30, 2015, we paid utility and rent payments for Stokes County families totaling $97,323.27,” she added. “We have partnerships with East Stokes Outreach, King Outreach and the Stokes County Department of Social Services to meet these needs. With the help of DSS, The Salvation Army will also provide gifts to over 600 residents of nursing homes in Stokes County during the Christmas season.
“We appreciate everyone’s support for this ministry and ask for continued support and prayers for next year’s Christmas effort,” she said. “We need help in promoting the program so that all families in need will know that they can apply for assistance in 2016 and so that Stokes County residents will know how to support the effort. Anyone interested in learning more may call me directly at 245-2073.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.