Times have been tough for many families in Stokes County over the past few years, but volunteers and local agencies have been working to ensure that no child has to do without Christmas this year.
The Salvation Army has been coordinating the collection and distribution of gifts to needy families in Stokes for a few years now, while the Stokes County Department of Social Services has handled the applications process.
This year 595 Stokes County children will receive Christmas gifts through the program. The families submitted lists of the presents the children wanted, and donors and volunteers worked to make sure those requests were filled. Families also received a box of food.
Dozens of volunteers and generous community members have been working all month to make the project a success. Gerald Jones was the volunteer coordinator for the project this year.
“It has been a really good experience,” he remarked, describing the project as a “time of giving.”
He estimated that more than 75 volunteers had been working at the Salvation Army Distribution Center in King to help package bags, set out toys and more. Families came to pick up gifts there on Saturday and Tuesday.
Jones said Tuesday, “We have seen the reaction of the people who have already come together to pick up toys.”
He elaborated on the importance of the Christmas blessing: “For many of these families and children, this is the one moment of sunshine in their lives.”
Walnut Cove Fire Department, another distribution site for the Salvation Army, held its fourth annual toys for children event on Saturday. It distributed gifts to more than 100 families. Some parents came to pick up the presents to keep it secret from the kids, while some brought their children along. The fire department was decorated with a Christmas tree and presents, and Santa Claus even made an appearance. The department also provided a hotdog lunch for the families, and Walnut Cove Girl Scout Troop 41090 helped serve the food.
Chief David Willard said, “It makes for a pretty good day for us … It’s a way for the fire department to give back.”
Dollar General and Salem Chapel helped make the project possible as well, the chief said. Christmas trees were also donated by the town and the Marines to families who needed them.
Fire department personnel were at the fire station until 1 a.m. the night before preparing for the event, then came back at 6 a.m. to finish preparations.
A former educator and a pastor, volunteer coordinator Gerald Jones marvels at the way people have come together to make sure families receive help this Christmas. “It is truly a community project,” he said. “I think it’s been very good. It’s a tough time for many people … but people have stepped up.”
Willard said of his department’s efforts: “It makes me know I have a great group of guys willing to spend time to help others.”
Danny Hughes helps coordinate the effort at the fire department, and he offered up a big thanks to the community for its support and donations.
Jones said, “It is always good to help other people. To see the community come together has brought a lot of joy.”