ORLANDO, Fla. – The spirit of Christmas came alive during the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree distribution day at the Joy Center in Orlando on Wednesday.
This year the annual event meant more to some because of economic hardships tied to the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of families and seniors will receive gifts thanks to the kindness of the Central Florida community.
“It’s a great blessing, you know, especially for our children, they get-- you know, gifts, since this year has been a really, really hard year,” Edith said, one of the thousands of families who received presents. “Thank you so much! We really appreciate it and our kids are gonna love the gifts.”
For Brenda, it’s the first time that she’s part of the Angel Tree program
“I have a 1-year-old and another boy, 6 months, so this is a help for me,” she said. “It’s hard having two kids and then this help is a lot. Thanks to the Salvation Army they came through and helped.”
This year, Brenda said she became a single mom -- something first-time volunteer, Maureen Campana, knows all too well about the hardships of raising two boys on her own.
“It’s really enjoyable. I love giving back. When I first came to Florida, I had nothing, and so Salvation Army helped me. So, I’m getting like a little choked up,” Campana said.
It was also an emotional moment for Vaneska, who this year said she couldn’t spend money on Christmas gifts for her children because of other priorities that needed to be taken care of at home.
“Agradezco primeramente por la oportunidad y segundo bueno, que no es fácil para el padre,” she said in Spanish she is first thankful for having been given the opportunity because it’s not easy on parents.
A year where everyone’s life changed because of COVID-19--which caused the yearly distribution to pivot the way it’s usually done. The parking lot at the Joy Center was turned into a drive-thru.
“Our biggest challenge is re-training everyone even me,” Captain Jessie Chapman, commander for the Orlando Salvation Army said. “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.”
Scenes from the Dec. 16, 2020 Salvation Army Angel Tree distribution day on Orange Avenue in Orlando as families pick up their gifts.