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Salvation Army still short on Christmas toys

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/16/09/59/1sRSaR.Em.138.jpeg|257
    Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    Volunteers Michael Helms 17 (right), De'Ja Mcknabb 17 (left), both with North West School of the Arts carry toys that were just donated today at the Salvation Army Christmas Center on Sunday Dec. 15, 2013.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/16/09/59/BNJ5o.Em.138.jpeg|470
    Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    Milton Munoz of Charlotte delivers a girl's bike that he bought as a donation at the Salvation Army Christmas Center on Sunday Dec. 15, 2013.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/16/09/59/TkInX.Em.138.jpeg|224
    Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    Salvation Army Major Kay Lancaster (left), laughs as she helps Cynthia Siemasku (right), with a donation of children nail color kits and toys on` Sunday 12/15, Siemasku brought several bags of toys donated from South Charlotte Middle School. The South Charlotte Middle School raised $8,000 to buy toys for the Salvation Army Christmas Center.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/16/09/59/1iyYTR.Em.138.jpeg|245
    Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    Salvation Army member Juan Caceres (left), helps Susan Yarber of Pineville (right),unload a donation for seniors for the Silver Bells program at the Salvation Army Christmas Center on Sunday Dec. 15, 2013.

After receiving thousands of gifts over the weekend, organizers at the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau say they’re on track to provide stockings for more than 12,000 children.

This year, 12,200 kids in the Charlotte area are expecting to get Christmas stockings from Santa, but only half that number had been delivered by local donors to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau by Friday’s deadline. The bureau gives away bags of toys for children, as well as stuffed stockings and bikes.

But organizers extended the deadline until Sunday, giving donors a few extra days – and more importantly an extra weekend – to shop.

Gifts for more than 5,000 children poured in over the weekend. But the Christmas Bureau was still about 1,000 short around 3 p.m., with an hour to go.

In the expansive building that used to be a Walmart, it was easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of gifts. Thousands of white trash bags full of footballs, dolls and games lined the empty space that used to hold housewares and clothes. Each bag was stuffed with toys provided by donors. Nearby, thousands of bikes were lined up in neat rows. And near a space that used to be the cafeteria was an area where volunteers stuffed thousands of stockings.

“There is a lot of stuff in here, but we still have 1,000 kids to shop for,” said Lindsay Duncan, 31, the volunteer coordinator.

She walked to the back of the store, near the worker’s only restricted area. There, hundreds of opaque bags lay neatly folded on the floor. “We still have a lot of bags to go.”

One of the people bearing gifts at the last minute was Robert Ervine, of Charlotte. He said he’d picked out toys for a 4-year-old girl named Joselyn who likes art. Inside Ervine’s clear plastic bag were crayons and other crafts, including a make-your-own-ornament kit.

“Last year, I went through a fire, right at the beginning of November,” said Ervine, who said he was still rebuilding around Christmastime. “I know what it feels like to not have enough.”

Organizers say it’s not too late to donate toys.

“We’ll probably still be collecting toys when we start giving them away,” said Maj. Bobby Lancaster, area commander of the Salvation Amy of Greater Charlotte.

The Christmas Bureau is at 801 E. Arrowood Road in a former Walmart building and will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. The deadline to donate stocking items is 7 p.m. Tuesday, organizers say.

Toothbrushes are the No. 1 need, say organizers. The auxiliary is also asking for pacifiers, sippy cups, hats for all ages, crayons, jump ropes, card games, small rubber balls, preschooler books and baby-safe stuffed animals.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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