'A great help': Parents pick up Christmas toys at Salvation Army in Elgin
This has been a tough year for Ryan Green, a single mother who had to front unexpected expenses after a car accident.
With Christmas looming, Green said, she Googled holiday assistance in her area and found the "Angel Tree" program offered by the Salvation Army of Elgin. After registering and making a toy wish list for her 2-year-old daughter Tamia, Green was among hundreds of parents who showed up Saturday to pick up their toys.
Tamia's 3rd birthday is Jan. 1, so the giveaway will help with birthday gifts, too, Green said. The little girl asked for Barbie, Paw Patrol and Baby Shark toys.
"This year has been rough for us," Green said. "It has been a big help. It's only the two of us so it doesn't have to be a plethora of things. It just has to be something."
The annual program at the Salvation Army of Elgin this year served 604 families with about 1,500 kids, said Heather Montenegro, who coleads the local agency with her husband, Xavier.
The goal was to provide each child with $60 worth of new toys, with popular requests including L.O.L. Surprise! dolls, unicorns, Lego sets and mini-drones, Montenegro said. The toys were bought by businesses that partnered with the Salvation Army, including Orangetheory Fitness in South Elgin, which donated 200 toys, she said.
Altrusa International Club of Elgin was in charge of procuring one pair of pajamas per child, and many club members reached out to their local churches for donations, Montenegro said.
Finally, the Salvation Army donated a bag of home goods to each family that included toilet paper, paper towels and LED bulbs.
"We are super grateful for all of our donors," Montenegro said.
Registration for the program was in October, November and early December. Parents were given numbers and were asked to show up in half-hour increments on Saturday, and volunteers helped distribute the pre-bagged toys and home goods.
Gus Harshbarger of St. Charles, among a group of volunteers from the Realtor Association of the Fox Valley, said the Elgin giveaway was impressively organized. The association also volunteered at "Angel Tree" giveaway programs at Salvation Army locations in Aurora and St. Charles.
"There's so much stuff," Harshbarger said. "That's a lot of families that will be able to have a smile on their faces for Christmas."
Abel Rangel of Elgin said he was indeed glad for the help in filling the space under the Christmas tree with toys for his two youngest children, ages 10 and 12.
"I am glad they do this," he said. "It's a great help for people who have limited means."