Cars lined the parking lot of The Salvation Army Vancouver Corps and stretched down Northeast 112th Avenue on Thursday as volunteers and staff worked to make sure families had presents under the tree on Christmas morning.
“A lot of people, especially today, they’re in need after the pandemic and all that stuff,” said Jon Sholer, who was volunteering at Salvation Army for the day with his wife. “It’s just one way we can help out. We’re fortunate to have what we need and be blessed in so many ways, and we want to help other people.”
This year, between the Angel Trees toy donation sites and the Adopt a Family program, The Salvation Army Vancouver Corps will provide gifts for around 800 families including nearly 2,000 children, according to John Morrow, Vancouver corps officer.
At The Salvation Army Vancouver Corps, families waited in line in their cars on Thursday while volunteers brought out red bags filled with presents. Each family registered ahead of time and submitted a wish list. Bags were then filled according to the wish lists, according to Morrow.
The Thursday group was picking up toys after registering for the Angel Tree program that opened in November. These gifts were specifically for children, according to Morrow.
Earlier in the week, around 170 families from the Adopt a Family program picked up their gifts. The Adopt a Family Program is made possible by companies and individuals who decide to “adopt a family” and buy gifts for the whole household, including parents, based on a wish list, according to Morrow.
“This is an important part of work that we do in the community because we’re going to make Christmas memories happen,” Morrow said. “We need the community and the people within the community to give the toys that we need to make this happen. Because we certainly cannot do it without the community believing in our program.”
Hundreds of community members helped make the toy distribution possible by donating toys and “adopting” families. More than 100 volunteers from the community helped sort and pack the toys and load them into vehicles, according to Morrow.
Kathleen Johnson worked for The Salvation Army for 22 years and has continued to volunteer the past five Christmas seasons post-retirement. She first received services from The Salvation Army at 15 and found her calling to help others, according to Johnson.
“(I love) knowing that kids are going to be so happy when they wake up … because maybe they knew in their hearts they weren’t going to get very much because mom was struggling or dad was struggling,” Johnson said. “I love knowing that they’re going to be happy and that the mom and dad have hope.”
Johnson said she has seen an increase in need the past few years as the local cost of living has increased. Morrow said he has seen both an increase in need and a decrease in donations, making it more of a challenge to meet the community need.
“But parents, I don’t know how they can afford Christmas this year,” Johnson said. “I mean, the cost of living is so high. How can you go and buy a toy?”
Despite the increase in need and decrease in donations, The Salvation Army Vancouver Corps was still able to serve thousands of children this Christmas season, ensuring smiles on Christmas morning as gifts are unwrapped.
For more information about The Salvation Army Vancouver Corps, visit vancouver.salvationarmy.org.