Gulfport Salvation Army Distributes Christmas Goodies - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/18/03

Gulfport Salvation Army Distributes Christmas Goodies

The Salvation Army handed out Christmas cheer Thursday.

Volunteers helped distribute thousands of bikes and teddy bears and games and toys.

Once again the generosity of South Mississippi means that several thousand needy families will enjoy a Merry Christmas.

A building that once housed a grocery store turned into a toy headquarters that would rival Santa's workshop. The Gulfport Salvation Army handed out bags of Christmas goodies to lots of thankful families.

The late morning line stretched far out the front door. Folks patiently waited for a community's generosity.

Volunteers called numbers and busily fill orders. Thousands of pre bagged goodies awaited those in need.

Shopping buggies filled with Christmas gifts rolled out the door and through the parking lot. Theresa Clark has five boys and three girls to take care of this Christmas.

"Oh, it's very important and very helpful," she said, when asked about the importance of the Christmas assistance program.

Nine year old James Levens is among Santa's helpers this year.

"We're just helping these people to have presents and all that. Because they just can't afford it. So, we're just helping them out," he said.

Levens admitted he felt a little like one of Santa's helpers.

"Well, I don't know. I don't have the ears," he added.

The Salvation Army elves are bringing lots of holiday happiness this season. The Gulfport office alone will assist more than four thousand families this year. Early numbers show a 42 percent increase in families who signed up for Christmas assistance.

That increase in need this year was evident by the long line. It stretched the length of the building. Folks began lining up as early as four o'clock in the morning.

"And this is the things that they blessed him with," said Jolanda Griffin, as she loaded a bag filled with stuffed animals into her trunck.

She was among the early risers, making sure her baby grandson has a happy Christmas.

"It's a blessing that people open their hearts to do this for kids who are unable," she said.

There are many thanks you's for the Christmas gifts and giving. The toys and goodies collected are thanks to your generosity with the Salvation Army's angel trees, the annual Toys for Tots drive and the red kettle drive.

By Steve Phillips

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