Shopping carts – sometimes two carts – loaded with toys and bicycles rolled out the door on distribution day for the Salvation Army’s annual Angel Tree program.
Dozens of Salvation Army volunteers loaded and pushed the carts to waiting parents such as Elizabeth Williams, who signed up her 9-year-old and 1-year old for the program.
“I’ve been sick,” and unable to work to buy her children gifts, Williams said.
Their wishes? “A bike. I don’t know what my 1-year-old wants; he’s just a baby.”
Williams said she’ll put the presents under the tree and make the children wait till Christmas to open them.
Adrienne Ealy said she’ll do the same for her 6-year-old daughter, who requested a bike and a Shimmer and Shine or JoJo Siwa doll.
“They don’t know it’s coming,” Ealy said of her and sister Shawanda Ealy’s kids.
Shawanda Ealy, whose 4-year-old son wants a bike, said the program is great.
“It’s a very helpful thing – without a job, you can’t get your child something.”
This year’s Angel Tree program distributed gifts, including 225 new bicycles, to 859 children from 340 area families, said Capt. Philip Canning, co-area Salvation Army commander with his wife, Capt. Elaine Canning.
The application process, which verifies income and need, began in early October and this year’s new favorites included Easy-Bake Ovens and drones, Canning said.
Once the wish lists are in, donors selected them from one of two Angel Trees located at Augusta Mall and the Kroc Center of Augusta, then buy the children toys. Warren Baptist Church took on hundreds of angels, Canning said.
From there volunteers sort and inspect the toys then bag them up and put them in the shopping carts for distribution on Friday, he said.
Volunteers were able to organize the toys in record time this year, Elaine Canning said.
“We started packing much later because we had a hard time locating the space that we’d been looking for,” she said. “We had an amazing group of volunteers show up to pack in the shortest amount of time we’ve ever done it before.”