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Salvation Army gift distribution kicks off

Volunteers help hand out thousands of Christmas toys, clothes and food items

By Candace Sipos -- csipos@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Brenda Wachter remembers getting a skateboard when she was about 7 and thinking it was from Santa. Little did she know, her parents listed her name on a Salvation Army angel, which a complete stranger picked up.

Decades later, she volunteers for the same process that helped facilitate her merry Christmas so many years ago, and she has gotten the whole family involved.

Wachter was surrounded by her two sisters, Robin Richardson and Debra Walton, at the old Coca-Cola bottling factory on Valley Avenue on Thursday. Along with Wachter's two children and Walton's daughter and daughter-in-law, the women were helping to hand out thousands of Christmas toys, clothes and food items to local residents in need.
"It's just a family tradition," Walton said. "It's giving. That's what Christmas is all about."
Collectively, the extended family sponsored 10 angels this year.

"On Christmas morning, when we wake up now, we think about all the angels that we helped," Walton said. "It's not what we have under our tree."

In total, 900 families will stream though the warehouse by sundown today, representing almost 1,900 children who will receive toys, clothes and a healthy Christmas dinner thanks to the Salvation Army and local residents.

Roughly 1,000 food boxes, 900 turkeys and more than 700 gently used winter coats were donated.

Brand-new pink and blue bikes were lined up in the dark concrete building, waiting to be ridden.

"It's overwhelming -- the response of the community," said Lt. Danitza Porras, one of the local Salvation Army's Corps officers.

She explained that the organization does not turn anyone away. Even if people come into the office requesting Christmas assistance after the deadline has passed, she tries to ensure they receive help. As she was talking about the several angels who were not sponsored this year, someone brought in bags of toys for some of those angels.

"Here [are] the miracles," Lt. Alvara Porras said, pointing at the new gifts.

Salvation Army officials go shopping for the angels who remain unsponsored each year.

The organization hands out appointment cards to a representative for each family to come pick up the donations between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday or Friday. More than 30 volunteers help facilitate the process each day.

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