SARASOTA - The spirit of giving took the spotlight Tuesday in Sarasota, and it was all thanks to the Salvation Army. Their Angel Tree program is popular for those who need help putting gifts under the tree this holiday season, because the program pairs those who wouldn't otherwise get gifts with those wanting to donate them. But not everyone is happy with the program.
“I have Happy Meal toys from McDonalds, one stocking to share with three boys, and here are the bags for the kids." Monica Brown is one of more than 600 families who signed up with the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program because she couldn't afford to buy gifts for her family. And while she says she's happy to get the gifts, she says the items she received put tears in her eyes. "I’m hurt more than anything…I just know it could have been better.”
Monica received two toys from a McDonalds Happy Meal, a stocking, and three bags filled with items like a coloring book, a shirt, and a football.
“I really don't have any extra money to make Christmas happen, and I kind of depend on things like this…it’s crazy, when I was there I overheard there was over 200 bicycles there and my kids didn't get one of them,” says Brown.
So we took Monica's concerns to the Salvation Army. They say their organization doesn't decide what each child receives.
“We don't exchange the items from the bags…we don’t change it out so that they get something specific that we think they should have. It's up to the donor that purchases the gifts for that child as to what they provide.” Captain Jim Spencer is the director of Sarasota's Angel Tree program. He says once a family is paired with a donor, that donor can purchase whatever they are willing to donate. “It’s difficult here, because parents, as we are taking the gift out to the car, are seeing that other children getting bikes, but their children are not. And it comes down to simple things like perhaps they didn't request a bike or the donor that purchased gifts for their child didn't have the funds to purchase a bike.”
Captain Spencer says their goal is to give those who wouldn't otherwise get gifts something to put under the tree. “Some families that come to us wouldn't have any gift for their children if they didn't register and receive gifts from the Salvation Army and the members of the community. So it gives them something to have, rather than nothing on Christmas morning.”
“My kids, they okay with what they get. It don't have to be expensive or anything, but they’re going to look at this and be like, that’s it. There's nothing to put a smile on their face.” Says Brown.
Salvation Army reps tell ABC 7 that the majority of people receiving gifts are happy. About 2,000 kids and 600 seniors will receive gifts this year.