‘It’s a great blessing:’ Angel Tree distribution takes on new meaning in 2020

Social distancing calls for mobile gift distribution

Scenes from the Dec. 16, 2020 Salvation Army Angel Tree distribution day on Orange Avenue in Orlando as families pick up their gifts.
Scenes from the Dec. 16, 2020 Salvation Army Angel Tree distribution day on Orange Avenue in Orlando as families pick up their gifts. (WKMG 2020)

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s a day all about giving back for the News 6 family.

But for local seniors and families struggling to make ends meet, it’s a day to bask in the holiday spirit.

Year after year, the Central Florida community shows its support for the Salvation Army Angel Tree program by buying gifts for those who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to open Christmas morning.

“When I first came to Florida, I had nothing and so Salvation Army helped me,” said volunteer Maureen Campana. “This is the first time volunteering, but I always give to the Angel Tree.”

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Scenes from the Dec. 16, 2020 Salvation Army Angel Tree distribution day on Orange Avenue in Orlando as families pick up their gifts.

While 2020 came with its own, unique obstacles, Central Floridians didn’t fail to show up for their community.

Jessie Chapman, Orlando area commander for The Salvation Army, said the training process this year for distribution day wasn’t an easy feat.

“It’s outside this year, so the only people actually going inside are the volunteers and our clients. Our applicants actually get to stay in their car,” Chapman said.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, people receiving gifts waited for their holiday magic, in a drive-thru line.

“This is our first year doing it this this way. Our biggest challenge is re-training everyone, even me,” Chapman said.

Nonetheless, families expressed their gratitude for the program in a year, that for many, brought more financial burdens than most.

“It’s a great blessing, you know, especially for our children. This year has been a really, really hard year,” said a woman named Edith. “We really appreciate it and our kids are gonna love the gifts.”

In total, News 6 viewers were able to add a little joy to the holiday season for 5,000 seniors and children.