JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - This year the Salvation Army of Metro Jackson was faced with a huge challenge this Christmas season. More than 8,100 kids need toys for Christmas. That is the largest number of Angel Tree children this area has ever seen, but with faith and a lot of help from the community each child was adopted. Their task Saturday was to distribute those gifts to parents.
Like a well oiled machine more than 300 volunteers made sure the right gift makes it to the right family. The line at the old Belk store at Metro Center Mall snaked outside the building. Marines helped lead the way.
"We had guys coming in here helping bag up some of the gifts for the families, organizing some of the bikes and toys and what not. Today we're providing security, making sure the right people come in at their appointment times," said U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Pepper.
After ids are checked groups sit and listen to a devotion led by Salvation Army Captain Ken Chapman.
"This is about breaking the cycle. There are more than 8,000 kids on this tree. We want to cut that in half or as much as possible next year. So what steps can we take (to help) because we have a responsibility to not give a hand out, but a hand up," said Salvation Army Development Director Marika Cackett.
An unprecedented 8,152 Angel Tree children were adopted this Christmas. Gifts are not the only thing given away. There are turkeys and trees too helping local parents like Marsha Calhoun survive this holiday season.
"It's the best, provide Christmas for children who can't really have a Christmas," said Calhoun.
Two bikes and a sack full of toys will make Christmas morning bright for her three children. Now she plans to pay it forward. "Definitely next year I will probably be a volunteer than the person in line so I'm excited about that," said Calhoun.
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