MODESTO -- A caring community has helped ease the local Salvation Army's fears that it would fall short of being able to serve families in need this holiday season.
Capt. Michael Paugh of The Salvation Army's Modesto Citadel said the charity is collecting toys for 3,300 area families, which average three children per household. A couple of days ago, the organization was at least 1,500 toys shy of its need.
Thursday, the picture was brighter.
"A lot of people have come out the community has come together," Paugh said. "We're very thankful for the entire community. Families have come out, we've had small children come in and bring a toy so someone can have a merry Christmas. We're out of the woods, but we're still uncertain because we're still filling orders."
There's no such thing as too many donations, he added. "If there are toys left over, we'll use them next year."
Earlier this week, the greatest need appeared to be gifts for girls 8 to 10 years old. The supply was almost as short for 11- and 12-year-old boys and girls.
A volunteer noted that craft-type toys such as jewelry and knitting kits are great for girls ages 8 to 12, and footballs and basketballs are always a hit with preteen boys.
All toy donations should be new and unwrapped. In addition to toy donations, the army still welcomes volunteer help Saturday at its toy and food distribution warehouse.
"We'll start the distribution at 8:30 and open the doors then, but if volunteers want to come a little early, we'll brief them," Paugh said. "We should be done by about 1. Even if people can volunteer just an hour, that's great."
Paugh noted that the event is more than a toy giveaway. "We distribute food baskets with turkeys, potatoes, stuffing everything we would have on our tables, these individuals will have on their tables."
The captain said that even though toy donations have rebounded, contributions to the army's signature red kettles remain way down.
"They're down $27,000 from last year, and we don't really know why," he said. "There were some delays, like the Raley's strike and other stores needing to get corporate OK to allow ringers."
He said he hopes kettle donations will catch up. "We're out there right through Christmas Eve, and I would encourage people when they are passing a kettle to give from the heart."
The Salvation Army's toy and food warehouse is at 736 Mariposa Drive, Unit F. People interested in volunteering can call Paugh at (209) 522-3209 or show up as early as 6 a.m. Saturday. Toys can be dropped off at The Salvation Army, 625 I St., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday.
Bee City Editor Deke Farrow can be reached at (209) 578-2327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.