Volunteer John Faunce helps Lisa Pettaway choose toys for her children at the Salvation Army’s toy store on Friday.
Volunteer John Faunce helps Lisa Pettaway choose toys for her children at the Salvation Army’s toy store on Friday.

Toy store serves thousands

Published 10:38pm Friday, December 13, 2013

The busiest toy store in Suffolk served thousands of families this week at the Salvation Army’s new Robert W. Harrell Jr. Physical Health and Education Center.

“I’ve told people all week long this is like being the biggest Santa in town,” Salvation Army Suffolk Corps Capt. Jim Shiels said on Friday as he watched the final shoppers choose gifts for their children. “And I think my volunteers did it faster than Santa’s did.”

Toys for more than 5,000 children were purchased through the Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund and Toys for Tots and donated by individuals. Folks who applied for help ahead of time came to the gymnasium to choose two toys for each child. Volunteers shopped with the parents and put the choices into a black trash bag, so as to hide them from the children when they got home.

“I thank them for the help,” said Lisa Pettaway, who received toys for her seven children. “It was a blessing.”

Shiels said the new building helped tremendously with the giveaway. Prior toy stores have been set up in vacant warehouses and retail stores that were cold and uninviting.

“We’re thrilled,” he said. “The new building has worked so very well. We’re just blessed with the building.”
About 200 volunteers, many of them workers from the city and public agencies like Social Services, helped shop, organize and replenish the toys.

“I am so amazed by the volunteers,” Shiels said, estimating there had been more than 200 throughout the week.

A final toy store day will be held next week for about 100 families who did not sign up in time for the main distribution.

In addition, this week, nearly 2,000 children received Angel Tree gifts, and 42 elderly adults received food.

“I still don’t think we met the total need,” Shiels said. “These are the people who were willing to ask.”

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