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Salvation Army begins Christmas Happiness distribution activities

Celeste Blackwood walked out of the doors of High Rock Community Church smiling, a bag of toys in one hand and food items in the other. Blackwood was at the church Thursday to receive the gifts from the Salvation Army of Rowan County. The nonprofit organization took over the distribution for the Christmas Happiness program.
The Christmas Happiness fund helps Rowan County families that are in need to buy gifts for their children. The contributions are collected at the Salisbury Post and listed in the paper each day. The Salvation Army of Rowan County distributes those funds to families that qualify. Families receive a $30 gift card to buy Christmas gifts for each child. The families are able to shop for their children at two local stores that have partnered with the organization — Kmart and Magic Mart.
This year for the first time, families received gift cards, some toys and a bag of food, said Lt. Josh Morse of the Salvation Army.
In the past, families received vouchers, but Morse said the gift cards were so much easier for the retailers.
Morse pointed to a table and asked Blackwood if her daughter would like to receive nail polish.
“Oh, she would love it,” Blackwood said with a smile.
She later said her daughter is a tomboy with a girly side. Her daughter is one among three boys.
“This means everything to me. I know I don’t have a job. They need this,” she said of her children.
Blackwood said she told her children she was going to pick up some presents for them.
This is a special time for the family, which has had a difficult year but will all be together at Christmas.
Blackwood was also there with a cousin, Gabriel Adams, who has two children. Adams said the Christmas Happiness program was a big help to her because she also does not have a job.
“It’s a blessing. I’m out of work and I’m a single parent,” she said.
Volunteers saw 1,500-1,600 people for the Christmas Happiness program, 600 people for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program and their newest program that benefits seniors, Silver Bells, which served 40 households.
Morse said on average Salvation Army staff and volunteers served 30 families every 15 minutes. Organizers were able to provide each family benefiting from Christmas Happiness with a bag of food, which had not been done in the past.
Morse said because many families requested only clothes, organizers wanted the children to have some toys. So each family also got to choose from a selection of toys. The Salvation Army was able to purchase 11,000 toys for boys and girls at a discounted rate from a local wholesaler.
In addition, Livingstone College students adopted 61 children and bought gifts for them, along with other items. St. John’s Lutheran Church also adopted 195 children this year.
Applications for Christmas Happiness were taken earllier through the resurrected Christmas Bureau, a program designed to streamline the application process for several organizations that provide Christmas gifts and food for children and their families.
Other Christmas Happiness contributions that come in will go to start the program for next year.

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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