The Toy Shop opened Wednesday to families who had previously signed up and it will remain open today for those families to shop for toys. Each child is allowed two small toys, two large toys and one book.
But that’s not all. Each child gets one new outfit, plus shoes — if the right size can be found — socks, gloves or mittens and a hat. Every member of the family gets stocking stuffer items, a new blanket — provided by area churches — and the family gets a food basket with either a ham or turkey. The larger the family, the bigger the turkey.
‘‘This really helps low-income people, which is really great,’’ said Amanda Lankford, of Fort Dodge. A single mother, the 22-year-old woman took her time trying to figure out which toys her 5-month-old son, Blake, might like.
A participant in the Family Investment Program, she is hoping to find a job as a cashier or in housekeeping for herself, but for Christmas, she needed help and found it at the Salvation Army. Her food basket included a small ham, and enough groceries to make several meals.
That’s important, said Capt. Danielle Shields, because the Salvation Army will not be open on Christmas Day.
‘‘We do the Christmas baskets so instead of a meal, they can have the meal at home with their families,’’ she said. ‘‘We’ll close at noon on Christmas Eve.’’
It is planned to serve a noon meal that day, she added.
Volunteers make the Salvation Army programs work, Shields said. ‘‘We started setting up the Toy Shop just after Thanksgiving. This thrift store area works just great for this. And now the volunteers help the families with their shopping. They go with them and put everything in a bag.’’
Geraldine McCaleb, of Fort Dodge, looked for a sweatshirt for her 17-year-old grandson and she accepted an MP3 player for him, but she wouldn’t take anything for herself.
‘‘I ain’t taking nothing because somebody else may need it,’’ she said. ‘‘If I’m not needing it, I’ll leave it for somebody else.’’
More than 120 families were preapproved for the holiday shopping, Shields said. The names were cross-referenced with families getting help from Upper Des Moines Opportunity and Operation Christmas.
Capt. Billie-Jo Richardson said families coming to shop gathered in the chapel, where movies were shown while they waited for their turn. Everything, from clothing to toys, was donated, with almost 40 percent coming from Fort Dodge Senior High. Angel trees around town carry the names of children, their sizes and what kind of toy they would like.
When the parents shop, they are not locked in to taking the toy on their child’s angel card.
While it looks as if there might be leftover toys, Richardson said, ‘‘We hope not. We hope they all go, but if not, we’ll pack them up and store them in the basement.’’
She said in lieu of a blanket, bed rolls are available, made and donated by women from the area.
‘‘I don’t know where they’re from,’’ she said. ‘‘They just come in and drop them off. About 100 of them. Each bed roll includes a Bible, pillow and scarf.’’
Christmas trees have been donated, too, she added.
For 20-year-old Kasondra Hurtt, of Fort Dodge, it wasn’t a tree she wanted or needed — she was shopping for toys for her two children.
‘‘It means a lot because this year I haven’t had a job,’’ she said. ‘‘It makes it a lot easier.’’
Getting gifts for young children is much easier than for teens, Richardson said, because ‘‘People think they can fend for themselves.’’
She said 10 families with older children were adopted out to individuals, organizations or businesses, but three teens weren’t.
‘‘So, we make sure they get something good,’’ Shields said. ‘‘We’ve got a MP3 player, DVDs, a fossil watch. We want them to have something nice.’’
The Salvation Army’s total budget is more than $200,000, Richardson said, adding that they hope to raise $102,000 of that in the annual red kettle campaign. As she talked, Shields was taking care of a check for $500 that had just been donated. It will be added to the kettle count.
Earlier this week, two kettles each contained 10 $100 bills, Shields said. That brought the amount received by bell ringers to an equivalent amount as last year at this time.
Last year was the first year the Salvation Army didn’t add to its growing debt, Richardson said. Because they are funded by division headquarters in Omaha, their debt is owed to headquarters, not to any bank or financial institution.
The Salvation Army does more with its money than fund Christmas shopping, though. Meals are served Monday through Friday, Richardson said. ‘‘We do grocery sacks for people Monday through Friday, and we do prescription assistance in special needs cases.’’
They are there to help at all times, she said, because it isn’t always Christmas.
Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org
-Messenger photo by Sandy Mickelson-
Amanda Lankford, left, drops an outfit for her 5-month-old son, Blake, in a bag Wednesday afternoon while shopping with volunteer Barb Evans at the Salvation Army Toy Shop. In addition to clothing, children get two small toys and two large toys each, plus a book, shoes, gloves and a hat. Every member of the family gets a blanket, and the family gets a food basket. Everything is donated to the Salvation Army for this annual program.