by Jonathan Weaver
More than 800 Armstrong County youth will receive their Christmas gifts via the Kittanning Salvation Army this year.
The annual toy distribution, which will be held at the First United Methodist Church of Kittanning’s Covenant Center begins at 10AM, Salvation Army Lieutenant Amber Imhoff said.
“We are at a little over 700 children and about 125 teenagers – the number is lower than last year, but that’s a good problem,” Lieutenant Amber said. “Each of our kids, probably if I had to guess, has at least four or five (gifts), if not more.
“I probably have more gifts here than Wal-Mart has on their shelves!”
Unfortunately, that’s an increase over just two weeks ago when Lieutenant Amber and her husband, Lieutenant Jason Imhoff, picked up more than 300 toys from the Ford City Lions and local high school students.
“There were still people at our door (yesterday),” Lieutenant Amber said. “There’s just a lot of layoffs in our community this year – (and) the bills don’t change just because you get laid-off. We have a lot of working families that are working to make ends meet.”
Right now, though, the Covenant Center floor is filled with black bags with neon-colored tape.
“Each of these bags represents a family – that’s what the numbers on the bags are. I have a giant spreadsheet of everything every child has received,” Lieutenant Amber said.
More than a dozen families are assigned per time slot throughout the distribution.
Lieutenant Amber estimated more than 100 gifts sit on two wheels outside of the bags – a new bike. She was glad children will be able to ride them during Winter Break.
Volunteers moved all the bags from a toy sorting storage shed in Rayburn Township to the Kittanning Borough church all yesterday morning and early afternoon.
Rather than toys, food bags will be given to those families that do not have children.
And, in addition to toys, many of the bags contain shoes or coats, high chairs or car seats – even Doritos.
“Some of the kids are probably a little over-blessed,” Lieutenant Amber smiled. “There are always unique gifts of what the kids need the most.”
Lieutenant Amber thanked all her volunteers – such as local Masons to Cub Scouts and Grace Christian School students, just to name a few – during the past few weeks.
“A majority of my Christmas volunteers this year have been brand-new, but it’s been good. We’ve been excited about it – we’ve been praying for each one of these kids, Lieutenant Amber said.
“It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth every bit of it.”
United Methodist Pastor Wade Berkey and his wife, Pastor Ali, will drop by the toy distribution. He said no church programs are delayed due to lending the room to the Salvation Army.
“It’s amazing how many gifts are sitting over there right now waiting to be passed out and given to young people around the community,” Pastor Wade said.
Pastor Wade also knew some of the families’ in-need that is receiving toys or food today.
All families today will be invited to a family fun event called “Jingle Jam” at 10AM tomorrow morning at the Kittanning chapel on South Jefferson Street.