Robyn Bodi was among hundreds of people who on Monday picked up bicycles, games and other toys for their children to open as Christmas presents thanks to donations from the community through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.
“It has helped me more than they could ever imagine,” Bodi said as she waited in line Monday morning at The Sun News warehouse to pick up toys for her 4-year-old son and twin 3-year-old daughters. “It’s a blessing, it really is. For parents who don’t have the means to get their kids Christmas, this helps. I work two jobs and still wasn’t able to provide Christmas for them.”
More than 1,200 underprivileged children benefited from this year’s Salvation Army Angel Tree program and the gifts were picked up Monday by parents and caregivers, said Brenda Ryan, executive director of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Conway. The gifts included more than 200 bicycles and bags of toys for children donated by community members.
Officials began collecting information about needy children in October and then qualified each family to be a part of the program, Ryan said. As the donations came in, hundreds of volunteers tagged and bagged the donations before giving them out on Monday.
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“This is an example of the generosity of the community. We are really grateful to the community for the support. It means a lot to us and to the people being served,” said Major Bret McElroy with Horry County’s Salvation Army.
Even though the economy has impacted many families and forced some into the program, McElroy said the Salvation Army hopes to meet its budget this year from community donations through various programs, and at its signature red kettles with bell ringers posted next to them.
“It doesn’t matter if the economy is good or if the economy is bad those needs are there. In order for those needs to be met the community needs to come together and that’s what this is,” McElroy said as workers buzzed around him Monday gathering toys and items for people waiting in line at the Angel Tree giveaway.
The bell ringers in the kettle program started a week later than last year and they have about a $10,000 deficit compared to last year, McElroy said.
“When donations are down services are down. The number of people we are able to help is impacted by the donations we are receiving,” he said.
But since the economy has improved some, Matt Klugman, marketing director for VacationMyrtleBeach.com, said his group decided to give back by volunteering Monday to help hand out toys and other items.
“We realize a lot of people need help and our group as a whole decided to help. It’s a responsibility of ours to give back to the community that provides for us,” said Klugman, who had about 50 people helping on Monday.
Seeing the volunteers and community members picking up toys on Monday was amazing for Michele Borbely, a Salvation Army case worker, she said.
“It’s amazing how this came together. [Borbely’s clients] were in tears two months ago and now they’re smiling. We wouldn’t be able to do it without the community,” she said. “It’s amazing. I can’t stop smiling. At first I was worried because the toys weren’t coming in and then last week vans full of toys started coming in.”
Bodi says, she’s looking forward to seeing her children’s faces when they open their presents on Christmas.
“Thank you Salvation Army for even doing this program and giving us the opportunity to get presents,” Bodi said. “I’m excited to see their faces on Christmas.”