MANCHESTER --- “It feels like Christmas when you come in here,” said volunteer Julie Davis, who helped parents pick out presents for their children Monday at the Santa Fund Toy Shop.
It was distribution day for the goods gathered over the last few months for the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army, the annual holiday gift drive that has been providing for families since 1960.
“They’re all donated toys. The community around here is so generous,” said Bob Champagne, director of the Salvation Army community center, during a quick break Monday afternoon in the exposition room at the Radisson Hotel.
For the second straight year, the haul was large enough for each child to receive four gifts plus some stocking stuffers, a stuffed animal for kids under 5 and a Market Basket gift card to help feed the families.
Champagne said more than 1,100 families are benefiting from this year’s Santa Fund.
A Manchester mom selected a board game and set of art supplies for her 9-year-old daughter.
“It has everything!” she said. “I don’t know if I’m more excited to use it with her or she’ll be more excited.”
The mother, who asked not to be named to protect her daughter’s privacy, said she first turned to the Santa Fund last year, when she was approved for housing assistance after a lengthy wait and had to come up with money to cover the rent and security deposit quickly.
“It’s very helpful for someone that really doesn’t have money to shop for their kids,” she said.
“I’ve taught them to be humble with what you have and appreciative,” the mom continued. “Even if they told me you could only get one gift or two gifts, I would still be grateful.”
Families were assigned different times throughout the day and joined by volunteers who guided them from station to station, trying to match items on wish lists from the stacks of goods.
Davis, a second-year volunteer, said she learned about the Santa Fund while working closely with the Salvation Army in her role at Southern New Hampshire Services. She said she started with helping people apply, then made her distribution debut last year.
“I knew I had to do it again this year,” she said. “It’s fabulous.”