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It Takes An Army To Cheer a Village

"We try to maintain an excellent level of service to the community throughout the year," said Maj. Tony Barrington, commander of the Alexandria Salvation Army. "But, that especially applies at this time of the year. We will be providing over 700 children with toys this year."

The army's advance planning, organization and discipline and was no different Dec. 14 at the Alexandria Salvation Army Christmas Distribution Center, on North St. Asaph Street.

A tour of the facility was held for people attending the organization's annual donor appreciation breakfast at the Royal Restaurant.

"This breakfast is our way of saying thank you to all of those that have given us their generous support throughout the year," Barrington said. "It also gives them a glimpse of our Christmas Program which assists hundreds of needy families in our community with food and toys."

Each donor and board member present received a special Salvation Army scarf as a token of appreciation.

"WE COULD NOT do all we do without all the help we receive from everyone throughout this city. The key to this season is that we are all involved with helping others," said Pete Stroub, chair of the appreciation breakfast and member Salvation Army Board of Directors.

At the distribution center several rooms were filled with bags of gifts, coded to coincide with requests from specific families. The families and gifts are acquired through the Salvation Army's Angel Trees that are placed in three locations; Springfield Mall, Wal Mart at Kingstowne, and Beacon Mall. Each tree is decorated with needy family identifications for selection by sponsors.

"Our objective is that every child gets three articles of clothing, three toys and a Christmas stocking," said Betty Waites, Family Services director for the Alexandria Salvation Army.

Waites said the organization begins collecting Christmas items in October.

"Anything that has not been distributed the year before is kept and that's how we start off the next year," Waites said.

"Every family has a code number. We then send out cards to the various families and they are given a time to pick up their gifts that are assembled according to that code number." Waites said each family receives food in addition to the gifts.

"THIS YEAR we have a few more families seeking out help. But, donations have also been good this year. People have been very generous," Waites said.

In addition to those involved in the Salvation Army's volunteer leadership, Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, City Councilwoman Joyce Woodson, U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8), and state Sen. Patricia Ticer (D-30) attended the breakfast to honor the organization's commitment to serving those in need.

"This is what Christmas is really all about," Euille said.