ORLANDO, Fla. – As the sun came up over Central Florida, thousands of white bags filled with Christmas gifts waited at the Salvation Army’s joy center — gifts that will bring smiles to families in need this holiday season.
Donna Hatch says she has tears of joy when she sees the emotion from parents collecting gifts for their little ones to put under the Christmas tree.
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“I joke with my girls here because I say I’ll be the one to cry before they do,” Hatch said. “You know it’s so hard to put into words and especially hard without getting emotional.”
Twelve years ago, Hatch began donating to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. A couple of years later, she said she decided to make her company, Dynafire, part of the annual event, and since then, she’s had her daughters experience the joy of giving back through volunteer work.
“It’s hard to see others in this situation where they’re struggling,” she said. “If we can help out sometimes with additional things then that relieves them as parents from the responsibility on the daily.”
It’s a sense of relief her daughter Morgan said makes her feel overjoyed as well.
“It’s been a lot of fun because we’ve gotten real close with the Salvation Army people as well and just the cohesion and the acceptance that everybody has throughout this whole process,” Morgan Hatch said.
It’s a memorable day for dozens of Santa’s helpers. Jeff Ferenbach has been part of this annual event for over a decade. He volunteers through the company he works for.
“It makes me appreciate, I guess, the whole thought behind Christmas, you know? We have people that actually come to tears because they wouldn’t have toys if they didn’t get something here,” Ferenbach said.
At 9 a.m. cars lined up to pick up their gifts — volunteers then rolled out the shopping carts of presents and loaded them into the cars of smiling parents. This year, they also received a box of food.
“Being able to come out and help and see the expressions of people’s faces when they leave, it’s very rewarding,” Ferenbach said.
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