The Salvation Army is less than 10 days away from distributing toys to needy children in Mahoning County.
And although many area residents, schools and businesses already have been generous, the Christian-based organization is facing a toy shortage, said Maj. Valerie Kahn.
Several hundred tags with wish lists have been picked up through Salvation Army’s Angel Giving Tree program, but hundreds more still need to be filled, Kahn said.
“There’s always a demand. This year, we’re serving about 1,200 families in Mahoning County and within those families about 2,000 children,” she said.
“We’re looking at distribution in 10 days, and we should be well along,” Kahn continued.
She looked around as several volunteers organized gifts at the distribution center. Pockets of toys are grouped on the floor, but it’s sparse.
Volunteer Kelly McCandless said toys are needed to fill tags that no one picked up or to even out siblings’ gift bags.
The Salvation Army compensates when one child in a family receives more than his or her sibling because the children had different donors, she said.
McCandless said she is worried.
“General donations are seriously down. Sometimes people who take tags forget to fill them or decide later that they can’t fill them,” she said.
Still, Kahn said there are many stories of generosity this year. She noted that so far the biggest donor has been Canfield High School students, who filled wish lists for 250 children.
Another inspiring donor, she said, is Kendall Tarr, a 12-year-old from Austintown.
Kendall was volunteering at the Salvation Army after school Friday. He got involved with the Angel Giving Tree program after his sixth-grade class at Austintown Middle School collected toys.
Then Kendall took it a step further. He collected toys and $220 at his church, Austintown Community Church.
“I’m going shopping with the money and will bring the toys here. I think I’m going to pick out more girl stuff and no more car stuff,” he said, as he looked at a small pile of toys on the girls’ table.
Kahn said toys for girls, such as dolls and craft materials, are in short supply, but both boys and girls, from infants to teenagers, need help.
When it comes time for distribution days, the Salvation Army will provide enough toys for 50 children every 30 minutes. To be a recipient of the Salvation Army donations, families must go through a social worker and demonstrate need, Kahn said.
“We’re trying to make a last push. If you walked by a tag, please pick one up. If you can’t, please buy just one toy,” she said.
New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the Salvation Army, 1501 Glenwood Ave., or at the Quaker Steak & Lube in The Shops at Boardman Park, 435 Boardman-Poland Road.