Toy ‘store’ does brisk business

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

Volunteer Diane Bush, left, helps Danielle Flood choose a Shrek toy for her son at the Salvation Army toy store on Thursday. Families who requested assistance have visited the store this week to choose toys and pick up food and Angel Tree donations.

With three children to provide for on a disability check, Betty Jones might have thought Christmas was impossible for her kids without the help of the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, the Cheer Fund and the community.

“I really need help this year,” she said Thursday while shopping for her son and two daughters. Her disability check was cut this year, she said.

“That put me in a tough situation.”

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She came in right after Danielle Flood, who was choosing gifts for her two boys.

“I finally got my own place,” she said, acknowledging that she didn’t have a permanent place to stay for part of this year. “I was house-to-house for a little bit.”

She and her sons now have their own place, but the crunch of new expenses didn’t leave much money for Christmas gifts.

“Of course, when you’ve just moved to your own place, it’s hard,” she said.

Jones, Flood and thousands of others who need help were able to shop for their children’s Christmas gifts this week at the Salvation Army’s temporary toy store, in a former Food Lion building on Holland Road.

More than 2,000 children had been served through Thursday, Salvation Army accountant Janet Cowan said. The store also will operate Friday.

Toys purchased from wholesalers with proceeds from the Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund were lined up on tables and separated by gender and age appropriateness. Volunteers in the back separated toys collected at toy drive events, at retailers and at workplaces, and these filled in as the supply of other toys was depleted.

Parents were able to choose three toys per child. Each child also received a stocking filled with age-appropriate gifts and books. Parents could choose a teddy bear or a doll for younger children, which did not count against the three-gift allotment. The dolls were dressed in one-of-a-kind outfits sewn by volunteers from local churches.

Each family also was allowed to choose a board game, because there were “so many games,” Cowan said. Those who had also applied for the Angel Tree program received their wrapped gifts, and families also received bags of food.

“It seems like this year, people are more eager to give,” Cowan said, surveying the scene of busy volunteers organizing or helping parents shop. “It’s taking a lot of manpower and a lot of work.”

To donate to the Cheer Fund, send a check to P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439 or bring it to our office at 130 S. Saratoga St. from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Donations are accepted year-around.