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"Doing the Most Good" to brighten a Child's Christmas

Released 5 December 2013

Daily this job offers opportunities to witness acts of heartbreaking sadness, unbelievable courage and a sense of hope that is tangible.  Many families come to The Salvation Army looking for help.  They start out shy and tough and within minutes of our staff's compassionate care, the person melts into trusting us and many times breaks down from the weight of their challenges.  That is when the real change begins to take place.  That is when they need hope.


Our first priority is to meet our client's basic human needs and then to discover how we can work with them to move them from dependency to economic self sufficiency.  One of the programs that The Salvation Army is well known for is the Christmas Assistance program. This program helps families receive Christmas gifts and food to brighten there holiday season. 


There is an off shoot of this program called Sponsored Family. This program is for families we find through our interview process to be in desperate circumstances and in need of additional, extra special help. Then we locate another family, a company, a church group or a school club that wants to adopt or "Sponsor" the family in need.  A wish list is gathered during the interview process from the family and is presented to the adopting group who then purchases the gifts. We arrange a drop off time for the group and a separate, distinct pickup time for the family. This way the process keeps both the donor and recipients information private and confidential, protecting both the donor and the family receiving the gifts.


This year one Sponsored family story stirred me to tears.  A man came to us with a remarkably heavy heart.  His wife and the mother of their four children passed away this summer after a brief illness.  He and his family are grieving this tremendous loss, but are trying to move forward and find their way.  The father wants to give his children as ‘normal' a Christmas as possible, but over the past 17 years, his wife took care of most of the holiday preparations, so memories of her are attached to everything about Christmas. Because of these heart-wrenching, exceptional circumstances, we matched this family to a local business looking to for a Sponsorship opportunity. The family's wish lists are simple and very practical; you can almost read into them that a toy is not fitting for a child who is faced with grown-up challenges much too soon in life.  Even still, I believe strongly in the experience of play and the use of creative imagination to temporarily allow the child to be joy-filled, no matter what sadness they deal with. I know from speaking with many of our donors, they also are committed to helping children have the beautiful experience of a Christmas gift.  We cannot remove the hurt, but working in partnership with companies and individuals, we can lift someone's heart to what is beautiful, good, pure and joyful.


Another story to share is of a local attorney who has taken on the role of coordinating a huge toy drive to benefit The Salvation Army Toy Shop.  For the past 4 years, this attorney calls upon is family, friends and colleagues to donate a toy for a child.  I'm thrilled to learn how much happiness it brings to this group to be able to share their blessings.  Their generous hearts are rewarded with all the fun they have shopping, choosing, even sometimes gently playing with and then piling the gifts under the company's tree, knowing those same toys will brighten a child's face on Christmas morning, given to them through The Salvation Army's Toy Shop.


Families who need a helping hand to put toys under the tree on Christmas Day can come to The Salvation Army Toy Shop. We take applications during the month of November and parents are given an appointment time to come back during the second week of December. We work as part of the Western New York Holiday Partnership, receiving toys from the News Neediest Fund, Toys for Tots as well as toys we gather independently through our Angel Tree and from generous donors like the lawyer mentioned above.

Operating as a walk-through shopping experience, parents walk through the toy shop with a volunteer assistant and hand pick toys for their children as if they were in a toy store. All the toys are separated by age group and gender to make it easier for the parents to find the appropriate toys for each child.


We hope that through this important program, every child has a toy under the tree and a smile on their face on Christmas Day!     


If you would like to volunteer for any of these programs, please call our Volunteer Coordinator, Andrea Glinski at (716) 883-9800 x220 or email her at Or if you would like to learn how your company or family can become a sponsor to one of our special families, please contact Allison Betti at (716)883-9800 x237 or email her at

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