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Salvation Army brings Christmas joy

The doors of the Salvation Army opened on Monday for a four-day-long toy shopping event to help children in Suffolk have a merry Christmas.

Capt. Shauntrice Anthony, of the Salvation Army Suffolk Corps, said about 2,387 children will have gifts under their Christmas tree because of the event.

Every year, for more than 40 years, the Salvation Army Suffolk Corps opens its doors to families in need to come get toys for their children. The toys were purchased with donations made to the Suffolk News-Herald’s Cheer Fund.

“I do it because if we didn’t, then a lot of the children wouldn’t have a Christmas,” Anthony said. “I have the opportunity to give back to the community and bring Christmas joy to the people of Suffolk.”

Salvation Army Suffolk Corps volunteer Deatrice Baker helps to get a cart ready for a family to start shopping.

Along with Anthony, there are at least 35 volunteers every day to help families choose gifts from the selection.

Most of the volunteers at the event have already participated multiple times, though there were a few that were experiencing the joy of the event for the first time.

As a first-year volunteer, Deatrice Baker enjoyed getting to spend time with the families while they looked around at the toys.

“I get to spend time with them, and I get to see the smile on their faces,” Baker said.

Deangelo Askew is a more seasoned veteran with the Salvation Army. Askew has been giving his time to the event going on seven years.

“The best part is to see the faces of the people. You see a lot of emotion,” Askew said.

All that emotion can be seen as parents and families stroll around the tables, looking at the things they get to bring home to their children.

Suffolk residents Bobby and Candice Gallop were able to find gifts for three of their five children.

“To be able to see their eyes light up and have a visual that they’re loved,” Bobby Gallop said was the best part about attending for the second time.

Most parents echoed the same sentiment.

“I’m excited just to see her smile,” Zieera Knight said as she looked at dolls for her 4-year-old daughter. This was Knight’s third year at the event.

One mom was in for the long haul, picking up Christmas gifts for all seven of her children with ages ranging from 7 months old to 8 years old. Shatier Lawrence was participating for her second year with the Salvation Army.

Families that are interested fill out applications to qualify for the event and set up an appointment time during the four-day period. Anthony said that 600 to 800 families fill out applications.

The families that qualify leave with large black bags filled to the top with toys and wrapping paper for Christmas. Every family gets to pick out three age-appropriate toys and a stocking for each child they have. Along with the toys, every family gets one board game. If the family has a girl 10 years old or younger, they take home one doll as well.

Some families receive more at the event if they are participants with the Angel Tree, another Salvation Army program to provide for less fortunate children.