A new stop for Santa

Published 9:25 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Santa’s coming to Suffolk, and this year, he has a new stop on the list.

The new Robert W. Harrell Jr. Physical Health and Education Center will be one of the jolly old elf’s first destinations, as folks at the Salvation Army’s new building help thousands of less fortunate mothers, grandmothers, aunts, fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other family members choose gifts for their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. It will be the first time the annual toy distribution — which operates under the auspices of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots program — has been held in the new facility, and officials with the Salvation Army could hardly be more excited.

“It’s working out great,” Salvation Army Suffolk Corps Capt. Jim Shiels said last week. “There’s no doubt this makes it so much easier to have the space and have it right here. It’s a blessing for the community to have a facility like that to be able to do these kinds of programs.”

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In the past, the distribution to qualifying families has taken place in vacant retail spaces and warehouses. Those spaces are often cold and uninviting. Folks who attend the distribution next week in the new facility, however, can expect to be warm and warmly treated, and many of them will discover what a wonderful new resource the new community center can be for them, with the access it will provide to health and fitness programs, continuing education and much more.

But for the next week or so, it will be Christmas central at the Salvation Army, as volunteers prepare for the influx of “shoppers” directed to the distribution by the Suffolk Department of Social Services and as they help those shoppers choose the best presents for their children.

It’s not too late for you to help. The Cheer Fund supports Toys for Tots in Suffolk. This year, the fund has a $35,000 goal, which enables about 5,000 children to receive gifts.

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.

For more information on the Cheer Fund, call 934-9616.