Sometimes, it isn’t the gift that matters. It’s that someone cared enough to give.
On Wednesday, the Salvation Army of Northwest Ohio held its annual Christmas distribution, giving toys to families that signed up in October and November.
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Many in the area sought help. A line formed outside the UAW Local 12 Hall on Ashland Avenue, as dozens waited their turn to look through toys for their children or collected holiday food baskets. Games were given away in an effort to boost family time.
Capt. Kevin Zanders of the Salvation Army said that the group expected to give toys to more than 3,000 children, and provide food to 6,000 to 7,000 people. His wife, Capt. Tawny Cowen-Zanders, said the Salvation Army doesn’t just give away items, though, but tries to do some element of case management, finding out what people need to help them not be in need anymore.
“We believe in giving a hand up, not a hand out,” she said.
Toys were collected with the help of 13 ABC-TV’s Hope for the Holidays, and by the Toy-A-Thon operated by 92.5 KISS-FM and 101.5 The River. The Salvation Army — and scores of volunteers — wasn’t the only group on hand to help. Members of Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines of Perrysburg Township gave out toys they collected during the annual Toys for Tots campaign.
Maj. George Gordy IV said the Marines collected about 8,000 toys through partnerships with about 90 businesses. Toys for Tots collaborates with the Salvation Army during distribution.
While toy donations from the community were plentiful, it’s harder to get toys for older children. The Marine Corps spent $20,000 on toys to help fill that void, and private donors kicked in about $20,000 more.
Anji Arquette said she and her four children try to donate to the Salvation Army or Toys for Tots when they can because they know people are in need. This year, they found themselves the ones in need at Christmastime.
A stay-at-home mom whose husband works, Ms. Arquette said the family makes do paycheck-to-paycheck on one income, but that prices for food and gas have strained the household. Christmas toys for the children would have meant paying bills late.
“This year, we really needed the extra help,” she said.
That community members step up and give during the holiday season is a blessing, Tiffany Bowers said. She has three children and a fourth on the way, and though she has several degrees in medical-related fields, she has a high-risk pregnancy and was told she can’t work right now.
She’s searching for a job while she’s pregnant, but for now she's unemployed, though her boyfriend helps out. Without the Salvation Army, she wouldn’t have been able to give her children Christmas presents.
“There are still people out there that still care,” she said.
That, Ms. Cowen-Zanders said, is maybe more important than the toys the Salvation Army gives out. The knowledge that you aren’t alone, and that there are those in the community who care, can inspire someone to rise up and give hope.
“It’s about teaching the family that someone cares about them,” she said. “Sometimes, that’s all they need.”