Merry Christmas to all, thanks to Cheer Fund

Published 9:29 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The gym at the Suffolk Salvation Army looked more like a toy warehouse than a basketball court this week as it gave away toys to about 971 families.

Capt. Shauntrice Anthony, of the Salvation Army Suffolk Corps, said 2,537 children will receive Christmas presents this holiday season 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.

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“We got excited this year, because parents get to take a little more than last year,” Anthony said. “We are happy to provide toys and make Christmas easier. Without this distribution, some families wouldn’t be able to provide gifts for their children.”

Volunteers helped each family pick out at least four toys per child to take home. For some age groups, the parents are able to also pick out a stuffed animal or a doll to go along with their four other gifts.

“Honestly, it’s very exciting, even though I’m not the one shopping,” Anthony said. “I’m sure I’m even more excited than them.”

Ashley Johnson was thrilled to shop for her children as she pushed her 4-month-old baby around the Salvation Army.

“I’m happy, because we have really struggled this year,” Johnson said.

Other families were in the same position as Johnson. They found themselves without jobs and struggling to make ends meet, and having the toy drive made the holiday season less stressful.

“It’s a great thing that they do. It’s good to have that little bit extra,” said Caneika Burke, who was shopping for her two boys.

Having access to this event was a blessing that did not go unnoticed by those that got to participate.

“They are giving out so many blessings this year,” said Sandy Summers.

Summers found herself out of a job this year, and she had the opportunity to shop for her three young kids thanks to the Salvation Army and the Cheer Fund.

“The fact that I was not working this year, my kids wouldn’t have had a Christmas without this,” Summers said.

Without the toy distribution, Johnson would have had a difficult time providing Christmas gifts for all three of her children, but within minutes she was finding the perfect gifts for them.

“My son has an addiction to blankets, and he is always walking around touching one to his face,” Johnson said as she picked out a Paw Patrol blanket.

Being able to receive gifts this Christmas takes a burden off of some parents’ shoulders, and being able to help those parents gave joy to those volunteering.

“One of my coworkers said it was a fun event. I used to do a toy distribution in the past, so I decided to come,” said Sarah Davis, a volunteer from Keurig Dr Pepper. “I’m really impressed with this. It’s so nice and organized. I like getting to help people shop and figure out the new hot items.”

The Salvation Army was able to provide families with toys during a three-day event that began on Monday.

According to Anthony, the organization has been able to provide more toys because they are serving fewer children this year.

Serving fewer children might seem like a bad thing, but Anthony believes that they are serving fewer because there is less of a need this year.

“Having less people is a good thing, because many people don’t need it,” Anthony said.

The organization saw a drop in families because fewer families applied to shop. The Salvation Army does their own in-house application for a portion of the year, and the Department of Social Services also assists with finding families in need.

Donations to the Cheer Fund are accepted year-round, and this year’s campaign is still ongoing with a goal of $40,000.

To donate to the Cheer Fund, send a check to P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439, or bring it to the newspaper 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 take your photo as you hand it to one of our staff.

For more information on the Cheer Fund, call 934-9609.