ORLANDO, Fla. – Hundreds of cars lined up outside the former Orlando Sentinel building in downtown Orlando on Wednesday, waiting for assistance from the Salvation Army.
What is usually an in-person, face-to-face event full of hugs was transformed into a drive-through event that wound through the former newspaper’s parking lot.
“It’s been a long morning. The line is really long,” said Jasmine Adams, a recipient who’s had a tough year.
Adams said she believes the long line was the result of more people needing help this year, a notion confirmed by the Salvation Army.
As part of its annual Angel Tree program, 1,000 more children were adopted by members of the public who purchased toys, clothes and other gifts for them.
“(My year) was very hard,” Adams said. “I have five kids, and two of them are autistic. My son’s best friend -- he is actually homeless -- so I took him in this year because I was like, ‘You can’t just be living in your car.’”
Celina Rojas and her friend also applied for assistance.
“I lost a job, and I had COVID a few months ago, so my hours are reduced, and it’s very very hard,” she said. “(My friend) lost her job, too, but Christmas is for the kids, and we are doing the best thing that we can do,” Rojas said.
The women were among 2,000 vehicles that eventually made their way through the event.
Volunteers loaded each vehicle with bags of gifts.
“Now is the time to spend more time with each other and your family members and the people (who) are close to you because you never know what’s going to happen,” Adams said. “COVID is everywhere.”
“Pray for us for the next year to have a better year and the pandemic (to be) gone,” Rojas said.