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Salvation Army hands out toys, clothing to needy families

Dec. 23, 2009 @ 06:52 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Tammy Tate didn't mind standing in a long line in the cold Tuesday at the Salvation Army's distribution center on 12th Street West in Huntington.

Waiting for her inside the small warehouse were bags of toys for her daughter and two sons.

"It's a big help," she said. "Just on my income, I can't afford to get the kids everything they want."

Tate's children were among the 1,450 who benefited from the Salvation Army's Angel Tree and Red Kettle campaigns.

For seven hours Tuesday, volunteers from the Huntington Police and Fire departments, area churches and businesses distributed more than 6,000 toys, clothing and hundreds of boxed Christmas dinners.

The pace was frantic, but that couldn't wipe the smile from the face of Salvation Army Capt. Bob Mullins. The Salvation Army's work during the holidays takes months of preparation, but it's worth it knowing that hundreds of families will have a Christmas, he said.

The struggling economy made it more difficult this year to accomplish the Salvation Army's mission, Mullins said. Last year, there were less than 1,300 children to buy toys for and 700 families that needed Christmas dinners, he said. This year, those numbers grew to 1,450 and 850, he said.

"It's not just the growing numbers of needy families that made it hard this year," Mullins said. "The economy has changed, so there were a lot of people who bought for kids on our Angel Tree last year that didn't participate this year. Some of them may have very well been in line waiting for toys."

But somehow, some way, the community comes through, he said. Even though several angels were left on the Salvation Army's trees this year, the organization spent $3,000 to make sure their wishes were granted, Mullins said. WOWK pitched in with leftover toys from its Toys for Tots campaign, he said.

"This is what Christmas is all about," TTA General Manager Paul Davis said as he took a break from handing out toys. "For the money that you put into the kettle, you can feel really good that your donation is going to a good cause."