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An army of angels assembles for needy
For nearly 2,000 area residents, Angel Tree program will provide a Christmas this holiday

 Jackie Byrne looks through clothes at the Salvation Army's Toyland to supplement a Christmas package for one of the 1,700 needy children and seniors helped through the organization's Angel Tree gift-giving program.
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Date published: 12/9/2011


Many who help the less fortunate at Christmas concentrate their efforts into a quick burst of helping right before the big day.

Not Spotsylvania County's Cheryl Howard, who bears the unofficial title of Head Elf for the Toyland that's created by the local Salvation Army auxiliary each year.

She and dozens of other volunteers will be extra busy this week and next distributing toys, clothing and more for the area's less fortunate through the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program, which istill needs last-minute contributions.

But her work and the efforts of others won't stop when 1,700 children and seniors next week get bags of toys, clothing, books, food and more--the only gifts most will see for Christmas.

The day after the holiday, Howard and fellow volunteer Zena Hemp of Stafford County will hit the after-Christmas sales to begin buying pants, tops, underwear, socks, gloves, coats and other items for next year's holiday-help program.

"It's nothing for us to get to the cash register pulling six or more filled carts with us," said the good-natured Howard, who notes that this year they have stretched $10,000 from donors "just as far as it will go."

"We have to hit the sales and find all the specials," she said. "We can't afford to even pay as much as $10 a coat. We need to buy in bulk."


When they do that--Howard estimates a typical month for them will include 130 to 140 hours of purposeful buying--they set aside the clothing for the next Christmas.

It takes some pretty specific shopping, because the program covers children from birth through age 14, meaning that they need outfits for each age group from infants to teens, for both boys and girls.

Not to mention the clothing they find for needy senior citizens also served by the program.

It's all very visible this week, as the program is using donated space at the old Gallahans furniture store in Spotsylvania to set up "Toyland."

That's what they call the selection of clothing, toys and other gift items set out in areas divided by age and sex.

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WHAT: Program that provides gifts for needy children and seniors has critical need for last-minute help.

HOW TO HELP: There are still names of needy children and seniors remaining on Angel Trees at area Walmarts, Spotsylvania Towne Centre, Giant at Harrison Crossing and the Salvation Army office at 2012 Lafayette Blvd. At this point, "adopting" an angel will require a quick turnaround of shopping and returning the gifts. ALSO: Direct donations are also needed, especially new coats, children's clothing and toys. Financial donations are always welcome. HOW TO HELP: Take donations to Salvation Army offices at 2012 Lafayette Blvd., Fredericksburg, Va., 22404 FOR MORE INFO: Call 373-3431.