The thing I really wanted to blog about yesterday but just did not have the time is my experience with the Salvation Army yesterday. As part of our job at work, we get a set number of hours to volunteer in the community. It has to be one of my favorite perks. I’ve blogged about a local garden I worked with back in the summer.
Yesterday we spent 3 hours at their Charlotte Christmas distribution center at an old Walmart location. First, I have to say that this was the Walmart that Scott and I used to go to when we were dating. Years ago neither Fort Mill OR Rock Hill had one and we’d have to go to Charlotte. So being in this building was a little nostalgic for me to start with. It still had the carpet laid out where the clothes were. The “Back to School” emblems were still in a few places on the floor. The bathroom signs were still up. But besides that, everything was ripped out. But still. It was still our old Walmart. And it’s silly to be nostalgic about Walmart but whatever.
So when we went in they had rows and rows of these placecards and bags. How it works is the Salvation Army takes on 14,000 children as angel tree participants, representing 6,000 families. Every single one of those 6,000 families had a spot on that floor. Those place cards were actually labeled family bags. After someone in the community took the angel and bought the child’s toys, they’d bring it back in a smaller bag. It’s labeled with the child’s name and the family’s number and then people like our group were responsible for putting the child’s bag in the family bag. That’s what we did the first hour or so.
Now. There are thousands of children’s angels that are never picked off the tree (oh my heart). But there are loads of toys that are donated to the Salvation Army. My work has 3 bins available to drop toys in and I’m sure you can find them near you. So, for those, they gave us print-outs of the rest of the angel tree wish lists. Each box on the sheet represented one child with their clothing sizes and a list of 4 things they wanted. Based on that, we got to “shop” in the ToyLand they had organized with the donated toys. Then, we would organize those bags in the family bags. Let me tell you, there were some mixed feelings doing that.
I felt a great responsibility picking the child’s ONLY three gifts that they would open. I tried really hard to match up their wish list with the toys we had available. My favorite was packing an American Girl for a little girl that wanted a doll. Or, maybe packing a little Lightning McQueen car that I happened to find in a pile for a little boy that wanted “anything Lightning McQueen”. Oh, it makes me so happy knowing they will have those!
I felt such great sadness at the kids who weren’t going to get anything on their list. Yes, some of them listed things like iPods and xbox games but other little girls that wanted something specific like Dora and I could not find a single Dora toy. Also, it killed me when the kid asked for a bike and helmet and there were no more to go around. Killed me! I wanted to go buy a bike and deliver it myself!
I can’t quantify or label this feeling but I just wanted everyone to know that their deal is legit. Salvation Army seems to be so easy to dismiss as they are everywhere. But the toys really are going to Joseph, or Daniel, or Kirsten in your community. And not only that, that the toys we give MATTER. These are kids and they want the same things that our kids want. I’m not pushing commercialism and materialism but buying brand names matter. When we were picking these gifts, the dollar store rip-offs just didn’t seem like ENOUGH for a kid that was only getting 3 gifts. I do realize that some families are consciously only giving their kids 3 gifts this year or maybe even none. But that is something you as a family can decide. These kids’ families are asking for help and I just wanted to give the BEST. I hope that makes sense without seeming materialistic. I mean, no lie, I’ll be stuffing my kids’ stockings with Dollar Store treats so don’t get me wrong on that account. All I’m saying is these kids matter and while packing I just wanted to imagine that they knew they were very loved and got exactly what they wanted.
So all that to say I hope you support Salvation Army when you see them out this year. I know yesterday really changed my perception of what they do and I hope I gave a glimpse of that. And there’s still time to donate toys (a bike! a Dora toy!) For those in the Charlotte area, here are the drop-off locations.
Ok, so tell me just one thing on YOUR wish list!