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Friday, December 14, 2012

Spreading Joy With The Salvation Army

I first learned about The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program when I was in high school. I worked for a major retailer and we had a tree set up in our store. Once I realized what the tree was for, my heart ached for the children and their families who needed a little extra help to make their Christmas bright. I remember shopping for a little boy and a little girl that year and knowing that even though it was such a small gesture, I was making a difference. I've been participating in this program every year since, and this year, I am overjoyed that my children are old enough to understand that we are helping others!

My daughter making her 1st donation!
One of the easiest ways for you to help The Salvation Army is by donating to the red kettles you see outside of stores. The money raised from the kettles is used to provide meals and to purchase gifts for those in need during the holiday season.

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the Salvation Army's Secret Santa Workshop where all the toys come to be distributed by volunteers to children & seniors according to their wishlist (they try to provide what the child is asking for as best they can). The workshop location changes every year to help keep it a secret!

The workshop is a HUGE 24,000 square foot warehouse chocked full of toys, blankets, bikes, and most importantly volunteers! Beginning the Monday after Thanksgiving, volunteers work feverishly for 3 weeks to serve more than 30,000 children and seniors in our area alone. This one "hub" (the workshop) services Harris, Montgomery, and Ft. Bend counties; that's over 600 square miles of the Houston area!!!

While I was there I was able to "shop" for a child for Christmas. I was provided with the wishlist and told that I could pick 2 gifts plus one stocking stuffer from the designated areas in the warehouse. I was so excited to be doing this! The child that I was shopping for was a 10 year old girl and all she had on her wishlist was a Barbie and a board game. Inside the warehouse there are large bins that hold the toys and they are separated by age and gender to make the shopping process easier. When I got to the bin for the 10-12 year old girls, it looked like this:

I was heartbroken. This sweet little girl only wanted a board game and a Barbie but the only thing in her designated bin was a curling iron and a purse; the stocking stuffer was a coloring book & a package of crayons. I put one of each item in my basket and started my search for the volunteer director to see if there was anything I could do. In the end, I was able to find a Barbie for the little girl and that made me very happy.

This bin wasn't the only one lacking in gifts. As it turns out, gifts for the older children are very much in short supply. There is a huge need for general donations for children ages 7-12 for both boys and girls, as well as stocking stuffers.

For the last 11 years KHOU has partnered with The Salvation Army for their annual Holiday Toy Drive. From now until Dec. 21st you can drop off a new, unwrapped toy at the KHOU studio or at any of their partner locations (IHop, Mac Haik Chevy, & Randalls). There are over 75 drop off locations in the Houston area - just look for this drop box:

Last year, the Holiday Toy Drive collected close to 25,000  new toys and it's all because of you and your donations! You can find more information on the toy drive by clicking here.

My favorite way to help The Salvation Army during Christmas is through the Angel Tree program. Did you know that this program has been happening for 123 years?! I believe that is a true testament to the good that the Salvation Army is doing in our communities. By sponsoring an angel from one of the 6 area mall angel trees, you have the ability to get personally involved with your "angel." The process is simple; just select an angel from the tree, shop their wishlist and then return the gifts at the designated drop off location (inside the mall.) You get the opportunity to hand pick gifts for your angel!

Our family will be selecting our angels this weekend and we are really looking forward to it. As some of you know, I haven't really been in the Christmas spirit this year. Participating in this program and giving to those in need has really lifted me up and I am so grateful!

If you would like more information on The Salvation Army, visit their site here.
Disclosure: I was compensated by The Salvation Army to share this information with you, but all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. I've been participating in the project for many years and it is something that I really believe in! 

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