SARASOTA, FLA. - It takes a small army of volunteers to distribute all Christmas gifts collected for the Salvation Army Angel tree program. According to Major Ethan Frizzell, the thousands of toys and 527 donated bicycles will help “about 1250 families and 2200 plus children. It is a lot and then we have a few hundred seniors as well.”
The two toy distribution works like well oiled machine. As families arrive their assigned number is radioed ahead to volunteers in the warehouse. The number is given to another volunteer who then finds the corresponding Christmas presents and takes them to the waiting families.
“The question is often asked, who really benefits? I would say the whole community benefits because we have volunteers here today, people from our recovery program, people who are affluent, people who have not much more than those who are being served. But everyone benefits in the spirit of Christmas we come together to celebrate Jesus,” said Frizzell.
He says many families just don’t have any extra money after paying their bills and providing Christmas presents would be difficult. Louann Bongiovanni, her husband and three children are moving into a new rental house this month.
“We just had to save all our money for moving expenses and first time rent and everything, so the angel tree is God sent.” Bongiovanni is very thankful for the Salvation Army. She gave back by volunteering at an Angel Tree toy drive this year at an area Walmart store.
Dagmar Apolono works hard just to make ends meet. When she picked up toys for her daughter on Wednesday morning she had a message to everyone involved with the Angel Tree.
“I say thank you. May God bless all of them, all the people,” said Apolono.
Major Frizzell is quick to point out; none of this would be possible without the generosity of our community.
“We know as this [warehouse] gets emptied, homes get filled because of the generosity of the community.”