Here’s a look inside distribution day for Salvation Army’s Angel Tree campaign

Donations ensure 6,000 children, seniors will receive gifts

ORLANDO, Fla. – Wednesday is Angel Tree distribution day at the Joy Center and families stopped by to collect the many gifts donated by the Central Florida community.

Thousands of gifts were distributed at the Joy Center. News 6 and BFARR Contracting teamed up with The Salvation Army to provide gifts to 6,000 angels.

This year, 5,000 angels represent a child ranging from infant to 14 years old in Orange and Osceola counties. The other 1,000 angels are seniors who might not have a Christmas if it were not for Angel Tree donations. The program gives Christmas gifts and essentials to children and seniors in need.

[PHOTOS: Angel Tree distribution day 2021]

Ahead of distribution day, more than $320,000 was raised on Giving Tuesday during a News 6 phone bank for the program.

Below is a look at some of the people helped by the Angel Tree campaign and the volunteers who helped make it possible.

News 6 spoke with one volunteer who said as a little girl, the Salvation Army helped her and now she said it’s her turn to help others.

Langa Jimenez said after being on the receiving end of the Salvation Army’s generosity, she decided to start working as a volunteer at the age of 11.

Jimenez said twice a week she cooks meals for children. For her, the work is personal. She said she wanted to give back to an organization that has given so much to her.

On distribution day, when families are touched by the generosity of the many who have donated toys, Jimenez said she has her own special message.

“Jesus is the one who supplies everything, and the reason for the season is Him,” she said.

She was seen praying with those who came to the Joy Center, oftentimes leaving many emotional.

And Jimenez said she will continue the prayers in the hopes that people leave feeling blessed.

“I came out here because of the community. Things have been hard lately, so I wanted to come out and help,” volunteer Zaccari Fort said.

At just 13 years old, Fort said he understands the need some Central Florida families have to make ends meet this holiday season. That’s why he’s volunteered during distribution day.

“Some parents, I can see they’re struggling. I know they’re going to be happy and their kids are going to be happy. That makes me feel good,” Fort said.

Fort’s sister Nevaeh and mom, Andrea, were also at the Joy Center, giving back as a family. They worked for hours distributing gifts and donations from the community.

“I initially brought my daughter in last year. I want to let them know they should give back because I know the struggle myself,” Andrea Fort said. “From the bottom of my heart, it feels amazing.”

News 6 reporter Ezzy Castro also lent a hand during Angel Tree’s distribution day. This year was a little different. Due to COVID-19, items were given to families drive-thru style.

For years, Ezzy’s been in front of the camera covering the Angel Tree program from every angle. But it’s what’s behind the camera that moves her—the moments spent with families learning about their struggles during the holidays.

“You’re seeing the tears. You’re seeing the emotions and you’re seeing how much ... I get emotional talking about it because I’m blessed. I have a job and family and then you see a family that needs help and they’re struggling,” Castro said.

The Angel Tree program is community-driven, money and effort bringing hope to Central Florida families during the holidays.

Although the volunteers are giving back, they’re getting something in return. It’s not a new bike or headphones. It’s a new perspective.

“You realize there are so much more important things out there than just Christmas shopping and running errands,” Castro said.

Andrea Fort agreed with the seasonal sentiment.

“I want to make sure they understand to give from the heart and that there’s a meaning to everything,” Andrea Fort said.

About the Authors:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.

Lauren Cervantes was born and raised in the Midwest but calls Florida her second home. She joined News 6 in August 2019 as a reporter.