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The spirit of Christmas filled the air Tuesday as volunteers distributed holiday blessings to those in need.
“I’m not able to provide toys for my children and what they want,” said Natalie Jones. “The Salvation Army, every year they help me out by blessing me.”
Jones’ children were among 535 community kids who received Christmas gifts as a part of the Salvation Army in Wilson’s annual Angel Tree program.
Jones said the program was helpful to her because now she doesn’t have to worry about not being able to provide for children at Christmas. She said she was not only grateful but couldn’t wait to see her children’s faces light up.
Large bags of Christmas gifts and bicycles lined several rooms inside the former Wilson Times building on Downing Street where the distribution was held.
“It’s almost time for Christmas,” Chon Ferrell, Boys and Girls Club executive director, told recipients with a bright smile. She was also decked out in holiday gear.
Ferrell said when some walk through the doors to pick up their gifts, they are often embarrassed, sad or depressed because they can’t provide for their families at Christmas.
“I wear my elf costume just to spread cheer to let them know that there are people in this community that want to help seniors and children,” she said. “Then their faces light up.”
About 75 seniors were also Angel Tree recipients. They were given Food Lion holiday food boxes as well.
Recipients continued to thank staff as they walked out with smiles and bags of Christmas gifts, thanks to the community stepping up and making it all possible.
“It’s really a Salvation Army community effort,” said Maj. Bobby Lancaster, who is over the Salvation Army in Wilson. He said the angels were adopted by corporations, churches, individuals and businesses in an effort to benefit children who might not receive Christmas gifts.
“The people who bought all this stuff will never see those smiles on those seniors nor the children, but our hearts know what we did,” Lancaster said. “And that’s the best thing about all of this.”
Folks can still help the Salvation Army by donating to the Red Kettle Campaign, which continues until Christmas Eve. Volunteers and workers are stationed at a variety of businesses, ringing the bell.
Lancaster said Salvation Army staff and volunteers are about 20 to 25 percent below what they collected last year during the campaign. He said a lot of it is due to the weather. But they usually see an uptick in donations during the last couple days of the campaign, he said.