The "Army" part of the Salvation Army is its volunteers. From Bell Ringers to philanthropists to workers preparing Christmas gifts for needy children and families. They were all present Dec. 13.
That was the morning the professional leadership of the Alexandria Salvation held their Second Annual Christmas Thank You Breakfast at Old Town's Royal Restaurant. Following breakfast they walked across North St. Asaph Street to get a first-hand look at gifts being readied in the Army's Christmas Distribution Center.
"The Salvation Army is a unique organization. We do our best to help people with their needs. That's what these two S's stand for on our uniforms — save and serve," said Major Tony Barrington, Corps Officer and Commander of the local Citadel.
"Each year we give new toys to at least 1,500 children as well as providing 750 to 800 families with food and clothing. The people we touch are going to enjoy the blessings of Christmas," he told members of his Advisory Board seated in the restaurant.
Distribution of toys, food and clothing is taking place throughout this week. Families come to the distribution center at 734 N. St. Asaph St. to collect the toys and gifts. Each year building owner, Theo Andraus, loans the use of the assembly/distribution area to the Army to collect their donations.
Overseeing the operation are Betty Waites and Francis Augustine. "Toys have been coming in slower this year but we're hoping they pick up," she said.
"Every family is assigned a code number. We send out cards to the various families and they are assigned a time to come in and pick up their gifts that are assembled to coordinated with that code. Each family also receives food as well as gifts," Waites said.
The Salvation Army begins its Christmas gift collections in early October. Any left over gifts are combined with the next year's donations, according to Waites.
Specific requests are fulfilled from the Angel Trees placed at various locations such as Wal Mart, Denny's, and Springfield Mall. Each angel on the tree bears the name of a child or family. Donors "adopt" that child and/or family and fulfill those requests.
"Our work is made easier by all the friends we have in this community," said Barrington.