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COLUMN: Giving rises to meet needs of children this Christmas

WOW, KIND-hearted givers have narrowed the gap for the local Salvation Army “Angel Tree” holiday-help program, turning in bags full of toys and clothes for 1,400 needy youngsters in the past few days.

But the effort’s not finished yet. There are still 500 needy youngsters facing a bleak Christmas if local givers don’t keep stepping up.

What can be done at this point?

Cheryl Howard, “head elf” of the Christmas giving program, said it still desperately needs new toys in the next few days, especially for boys and girls from 10 to 12.

“We get a lot donated for the toddlers and younger ones, but we’re starting to run thin on the stuff for the older children,” she said.

What sort of stuff is that?

“Remote-control cars, board games, skates and Nerf items are just some of the things that work well for the boys,” said Howard.

For girls: “Sets where they make their own jewelry, games or dolls, especially any of the One Direction figures,” she noted.

For boys and girls alike at that age: “Markers, paints, any sort of arts-and-crafts sets work well,” said Howard.

Other critical needs are coats and any other warm clothing for children 6 and up, and underwear for children from toddlers to 12-year-olds.

To help at this point, Howard says people should purchase new toys or clothing and bring the items directly to the program’s “Toyland” warehouse at the old Giant Food store at the intersection of Plank and Bragg roads.

Another thing that always fits is cash, which the program uses to purchase toys for children who aren’t sponsored.

This year, that number will be 500. But faced with shortfalls of some number every year, the program is prepared for some of those.

They do that by using donations and other available funds to purchase toys and clothing all year long to fill the potential void. The holiday-help program also receives toys, books and other items from Toys for Tots and other sources.

All those toys and other items are set up by age group in the warehouse, hence the name “Toyland.”

“We’re already using those items to fill out bags that came back a little light,” said Howard. “Soon, we’ll begin using the toys and clothing for children whose names weren’t taken off the Angel Trees.”

Right now, there aren’t enough of either to meet the need for the 500 non-sponsored children.

But hope and kindness both spring eternal.

After sharing the fact last week that the program had 1,900 children not yet sponsored, I was thrilled to see a wave of giving, with many good-hearted souls rushing out to Angel Trees to help.

The result: Some 1,400 bags arrived in just a few days.

Now the need is more finite and easier to accomplish. Buy one or more new toys, a warm coat or something as simple as a pack of underwear and take it all to Toyland.

It will mean one more needy child will have something he wants or needs.

Hey, last week, the program was 1,900 bags short. Helping the last 500 should be a cinch, if I know the caring spirit that abides here.

Toys For Tots Help

Another huge part of the area’s Christmas giving effort is the Quantico Campaign of Toys for Tots.

With a goal of more than 160,000 new toys for children throughout the region, they’re pushing to reach their goal as well.

Tabitha Bartley, community relations chief for the base at Quantico, said the drive has a lasting need for toys for children from 11 to 14.

Suggested items and drop-off sites are listed on the campaign’s website at

“We also could use more volunteers in the warehouse,” Bartley said of the programs distribution spot, which this year is in the The Free Lance–Star building in downtown Fredericksburg.

She added, “We’re covered on weekends, but have an urgent need for volunteers from Monday through Friday, 8 to 8.”

Those wanting to volunteer can do so by emailing her at

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415