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Anthony recalls pajama-filled Christmas

Capt. Shauntrice Anthony of the Salvation Army Suffolk Corps has vivid memories of Christmas growing up — and many of them involve pajamas.

“When I was a kid, my mother got all of us matching pajamas, and every Christmas Eve we were allowed to open one present,” Anthony said. “It was always the pajamas. We were always really excited thinking it was going to be something else, but it was always brand new pajamas.”

It wasn’t just any pajamas, though. Anthony and her three younger brothers got matching Power Rangers pajamas one year. “We all loved the Power Rangers,” she said.

One time they got footie pajamas; another year they got character pajamas, such as a reindeer. One year they got Ninja Turtles, and another year they each got their favorite football team.

“We thought we were, like, the coolest kids in town,” Anthony said. “My mom always made Christmas really special.”

The family would also drive around and look at Christmas lights and make cookies and hot chocolate to leave for Santa.

More importantly, they gave to others less fortunate than themselves. Her mother volunteered at the Salvation Army where they lived in Montgomery County, Md. She was the angel tree coordinator, and the entire family was involved.

“We’d adopt a family, and the whole family would go out and buy toys,” Anthony said.

These days, Anthony is involved on a whole new level. As one of the corps officers in Suffolk, along with her husband, Capt. Johnny Anthony, they help make sure every child in Suffolk can receive a toy.

The Anthonys work closely with the Cheer Fund to help make that happen. Anthony said there are likely to be more children in need this year.

About 2,237 children are already registered to receive help through the Salvation Army, which distributes toys purchased with Cheer Fund money as well as toys donated through Toys for Tots.

“We’ve probably hit our number from last year already, so I know we’re going to have more kids,” Anthony said.

Emergency cases are still being accepted through Social Services, so it is likely that number will grow past the 2,319 children helped in past years, Anthony said.

The Cheer Fund started during the Great Depression to provide clothes and food for needy families. It eventually began providing toys for children and teamed up with the Toys for Tots program.

Families that receive toys are pre-approved based on financial need. This year’s Cheer Fund goal is $40,000.

To help get folks into the Christmas spirit this year, folks are encouraged to post their Christmas memories on the Suffolk Cheer Fund Facebook page.

Cheer Fund donations are printed in the Suffolk News-Herald and can be made in honor of or in memory of a loved one. The donor can be listed anonymously if he chooses. The donor can also have his photograph taken giving the check to be published in the newspaper.

Donations for the Cheer Fund are accepted year-round. To give, write a check payable to the Cheer Fund and mail it to P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439, or stop by our office at 130 S. Saratoga St. Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Online giving is also available. Visit Suffolk Cheer Fund on Facebook to find a PayPal link.