ELYRIA — Despite stiff winds and blowing snow, the shivering line of people huddled outside the Salvation Army building Friday afternoon was anxious to get inside to be warmed up not only by the heat, but also by the generosity of others.
“They have helped us out a lot,” said Monique Hall. “It makes my kids happy. They’re our Christmas,” she said, referring to the efforts of the Salvation Army, whose volunteers worked most of the day to hand out more than 500 gift bags filled with toys, clothes and other presents, the bulk of which came from The Chronicle-Telegram’s Not-Forgotten Box toy drive, which surpassed its 2012 goal of 8,000 toys by more than 4,000.
Wish lists of Hall’s daughters Anastajia Perkins, 6, and sister Janiya, 5, included My Little Ponies and Walking Puppies, as well as mundane — from a kid’s standpoint — items such as hats, gloves, long johns, socks and clothing.
Their 4-month-old brother Raydon Hall wasn’t quite old enough to fill out a list.
Within 10 minutes, the line of people waiting to enter to pick up prepared gift bags grew from eight to more than 25.
Salvation Army personnel unlocked the front door and let people in according to a schedule that set appointments for every 15 minutes.
Once inside, they were directed to volunteers who gave them the stuffed bags of gifts.
A number of volunteers were Elyria High School students of health and physical education teacher Jodie Johnson, who also is the school’s girls volleyball coach.
Some 25 of Johnson’s current and former EHS students are members of the Multi-Culture Achievement Committee, whose objectives are to stay focused on academic goals, be active in the community and give back.
Brie Madison, 17, and Victor Barbee, 16, both juniors, talked about how appreciative recipients were.
“One lady said how very nice it was — what we were doing,” Victor said. “It shows me how blessed I am.”
“It feels real good to help someone who doesn’t have anything,” Brie added.
Senior Joshua Wyman, 17, agreed.
“I like to see everybody’s face,” Joshua said. “It’s good to make a difference in someone’s life.”
About half of the bags were handed out by lunchtime, according to Dale Jones, director of programming for Salvation Army.
The daylong distribution was expected to serve about 500 families.