BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Many families in need are busy wrapping gifts, generously donated by people and businesses across South Mississippi. On Tuesday, they lined-up for the Angel Tree distribution, where even the grown-ups received a big surprise.
There was a flurry of activity inside and outside the old Hancock Fabrics building. Jolly volunteers loaded cars with bags of gifts.
"I love it! My son's going to love it," said Patricia Lewis of Gulfport.
When asked what she received, Lewis replied, "Everything. A bike for sure. I know everything else is a surprise."
More than 200-families who couldn't afford Christmas this year waited anxiously for their Angel Tree presents. The Salvation Army distributed toys, electronics, even mattress sets to 600-angels in Harrison County.
"Some of the best gifts that I've ever seen in the four years that I've been here. This is the most giving community that we have, but this year, I've been blown away by the donations that we've had from families," said Salvation Army Associate Area Commander Beth Sturdivant.
The donations included basketball goals, bikes, and a toy tractor. Each family also received a bonus, a frozen turkey and a holiday meal.
"We are a bit exhausted, but the hard work plays off in the end, because the people, whenever we go out there and give them just like food or anything we can, their faces light up and they're so appreciative. It's so rewarding," said Mary Argana.
Argana is a freshman from Quincy University in Illinois. She came with 16 other students to lend a helping hand and spread holiday cheer.
"I think it's wonderful! I didn't know exactly what I was going to do for my kids. They feel so much love. I mean, it was well worth the wait and I'm real excited. I hope my kids love it," said Joycelynn Berry of Gulfport.
The parents felt a sense of relief, knowing their children's faces will light up on Christmas morning.
"Y'all a blessing from heaven. We all appreciate it. Thank y'all," Lewis told the volunteers.
For the third year in a row, families that signed up for the Angel Tree program had to attend life-skills classes. Any leftover gifts will be saved for emergencies, like for fire victims.