Giving and getting a blessing

Published 10:58 pm Friday, December 21, 2012

There are few better opportunities to grab hold of the Christmas spirit than by volunteering to help with the Salvation Army’s annual Toys for Tots toy distribution. On Friday, the Army’s “Toy Store” wrapped up its third and final day of giving away toys that had been donated or bought with donations, and volunteers left with plenty of stories of having been blessed by the act of giving their time and helping to make Christmas special for others who are less fortunate.

Each year, coordinating with the Suffolk Department of Social Services, the Salvation Army identifies many hundreds of mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers who are raising children in their homes without the resources to buy them presents for Christmas. When the distribution days arrive, volunteers gather at the former Food Lion on Holland Road to help those family members “shop” for age-appropriate toys for the children to find on Christmas morning.

It’s the culmination of months of hard work by organizers from the Salvation Army, Social Services the Cheer Fund and the Toys for Tots organization, along with the many people, businesses and organizations in Suffolk that raise money and collect toys for the event.

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All who participate find themselves touched by the effort, but the toy store volunteers arguably get the greatest blessing of all — the chance to see the gratitude in the faces and actions of so many adults who find themselves in humbling circumstances. Most express their appreciation with a few heartfelt words and, perhaps, a story about the difference the donations will make. Some of those stories are conveyed through tears. For others, nothing but a hug will show how much the effort has meant to them.

It’s too late to participate in the toy distribution this year, but there is still a way to get involved and to receive the blessing that comes from giving with a generous heart.

The Suffolk News-Herald’s Cheer Fund raises money for Suffolk’s Toys for Tots, which annually provides toys to thousands of children who otherwise may not have anything under the tree on Christmas Day. Last year’s total raised — $34,412.35 — provided toys for 4,655 local children.

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

We will list your donation in the newspaper, but it can be marked “anonymous” if you like. Donations may be made in honor of or in memory of someone. If you bring the check to our office, we’ll even take your picture as you hand it to one of our staff.