Salvation Army distributes toys, food to families in need

Some parents not able to buy gifts for kids
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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The Salvation Army Roseville Corps intentionally left the couple thousand Christmas presents the group had collected for children unwrapped.

“Nothing is wrapped, so the parents can wrap (the gifts) themselves,” said Salvation Army Lt. John Morrow. “It’s important we help make Christmas happen for families.”

About 300 families got bags of toys, which includes an estimated 700 children living in south Placer County, as part of an annual distribution that took place Wednesday morning at the Placer County Fairgrounds.

Parents also received one or two boxes of food, depending on their family size, and could select a Christmas tree and ornaments to take home.

“Every child deserves a Christmas,” Morrow said. “That’s my firm belief.”

Marisol Duran attended the toy distribution to pick up a bag of goodies for her three young children, ages 1 to 6 years old. They wanted dolls and dinosaur figurines.

“I’m here because I don’t have money to buy the stuff they want,” she said. “And this makes them happy.”

Claudio Florez, of Lincoln, loaded up his van with three bags of toys to give his five children — and he and his wife have another one on the way.

The local Salvation Army has been hosting a toy distribution since 1989 and this is Lts. John and Angela Morrow’s second year organizing the event. The group also does an adopt-a-family program, and 18 families received assistance this holiday season. One family had recently fallen on hard times and another lost everything they owned in a fire.

Toy drive recipients signed up prior to the event. They were required to show proof of residency, identification and birth certificates of their children. Income levels weren’t checked. Some 25 volunteers were in attendance on Wednesday to walk families through the distribution process.

“My first year (volunteering) was last year,” said Stephen Virdure, of Fair Oaks. “It’s just so rewarding. It’s just so nice to help others.”

Angela Morrow said that many people who donate to, and volunteer with, the Salvation Army do so because they themselves were once helped by the organization and they want to return the favor.

Volunteer Melissa Gratiot was at the toy distribution with her mom, Sue Fone, who previously worked as a nurse on the east coast, where she had started a charitable group. A month after their family relocated to California some 30 years ago, Gratiot’s father suffered a massive heart attack.

Neither he nor Fone had jobs at the time. So they got food baskets, turkeys and other assistance to get through the hard times.

“It feels good to pay it back,” Gratiot said. “(My mom) taught us to give and volunteer when we can.”