Volunteers preparing toys for Debi's Kids distribution

By Nicole Johnson  bio | email | Twitter

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Angels in need will have a Merry Christmas this year thanks to the community's support of Debi's Kids and the Salvation Army Angel Tree.

Toys filled the warehouse at the North Charleston Convention Center. About 20 volunteers sorted through everything.

"Christmas for a lot of kids is just like a magical time," said Rae McClaine who volunteered with Bubba Gump restaurant. "It's just great that Debi's Kids can help all kids have a Merry Christmas, even they can't afford it," she said.

Five-thousand angels will have gifts under the tree thanks to the kindness of strangers. "Our hope is that each child receives 3-5 toys a piece and a book for every child. I think we've hit that goal," Salvation Army public relations director Kiki Cooper said.

Organizers say anywhere from 20 to 70 volunteers come out each day to sort, count, and assign toys to each child. The program assigns each angel family with a date and time to pick up the gifts on one of three distribution days at the Convention Center.

Volunteers spent hours sorting through bikes, balls, and bears, with altogether more than 8,000 toys in the warehouse.

"It was pretty overwhelming at first, but we got used to it after the first few weeks. It's finally coming together," said volunteer from the US Navy Hilary Brown.

Volunteer Johnnie Reed remembers when she couldn't afford to put gifts under the tree for her children.

"They've received from Debi's Kids before, but now they've gotten way too old. They're grown now. So now I still help out," she said.

For six years the DKSAAT program helped her family. She says that's why it's important for her to give back as a volunteer, sorting through thousands of toys.

For the past two weeks about 20 volunteers have come out to the warehouse daily, but on distribution days it will take nearly 70 volunteers to get all these gifts passed out with families.

Without the extra help from volunteers, the Salvation Army says it wouldn't be able to complete the mission of making it a Merry Christmas for children in need.

"It's the joy of having to do it, and having to give to the people who have less than you," said Reed. "Merry Christmas everybody!"

Together with volunteers, the community, Salvation Army, and Live 5 News, it will be a very Merry Christmas throughout the Lowcountry this year.

Gift distribution days are Dec. 17-19 at the North Charleston Convention Center. Each angel family has an assigned pick up time.

Last minute gift donations can be dropped off at any Salvation Army location or the Live 5 News studios. Gifts for boys and girls ages 10 to 12 are needed.

©2009 WCSC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.