Salvation Army gives Christmas toys to legions of children

Hundreds of parents got in line at – some as early as 4 a.m. – to get the chance to bring home donated toys as a Christmas present for their children. A record number of families asked for the help this year, Salvation Army officials said.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The parents of more than 4,500 children will place toys underneath the Christmas tree this year, courtesy of the Salvation Army.

Hundreds of parents stood in lines outside the Salvation Army Community Center on Wake Forest Road Thursday, waiting for a chance to browse through the donated toys in the center. Some parents arrived as early as 4 a.m. to get in line.

When the two-day giveaway is over, nearly 2,000 families, with over 4,500 children, will have received toys – 800 more children than last year and a record high, Salvation Army officials said.

"We've never (had) 4,000. For us to even get in the 4,500 range – and we're kind of tapping closer to the 5,000 range – that's a huge number for us," spokeswoman Paige Bagwell said.

While picking out toys for her children, Elizabeth Hall, of Raleigh, said that economic struggles had put her in a very different position than in past years.

"Every year since I've been little, it's been a family tradition that we've given to the Salvation Army," Hall said. "Unfortunately, this year, I'm in line."

Those donated toys make it possible for many families to have a Christmas – something that many parents was increasingly difficult this year.

"This is important because of people losing their jobs and getting laid off and just needing a little help," Angela Banks, of Raleigh, said.

Banks was willing to wait nearly an hour to pick out some toys to give to her son.

"Times are hard. Even though I still have a job, times are still hard," she said.

A donation from Bailey's Jewelry of Raleigh will ensure that some teenage girls will get a special treat – 50 pearl necklaces and 50 pearl bracelets. The jewelry will be handed out Friday afternoon.

Economic woes have put more demand on The Salvation Army's services, but cash donations at their easily recognizable, red kettles have been down. The charity has relied more on corporate sponsors, including Fidelity Investments, which came through big for it, Bagwell said.

Although cash donations have been down, individuals have found other ways to give, she said.

"People are having a harder time writing that check and questioning where that money's going," Bagwell said. "They like to see: This is a toy, and this is going to a child that needs it. Or this is a coat, and this is going to a child that needs warm clothing."

Hall expressed gratitude for the donated toys and hope that she'll be able to give back.

"A lot of people gave a lot of stuff for us to be here. Hopefully, next year, I'll be on the other side again," she said.


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