Pandemic can’t stop Salvation Army Toy Shop
The Salvation Army Northern Division headquarters in Roseville, Minn. is busier than Santa’s workshop, with hundreds of volunteers organizing and distributing toys to help rescue Christmas for Twin Cities families in need. Outside of the facility, dozens of cars and trucks are lined up in the front and back parking lots, where volunteers fill the vehicles’ trunks with toys, games and stocking stuffers. (View photos.)
One of the vehicles belongs to a woman named Tonya, who recently became a single mom. Earlier this year, she lost her job at a medical device company due to COVID-19.
“I have a new job now, but I’m still struggling to get back on my feet,” said Tonya, who has never needed The Salvation Army’s help before.
Volunteers packed Tonya’s car full of donated toys and art supplies for two of her kids, ages 9 and 20 months. She was grateful.
“This helps so much,” Tonya said. “By not spending money on toys, I can spend that money on food for my kids.”
Tonya and her children are among 5,000 pre-registered families receiving toys at this year’s revamped Toy Shop distribution. Traditionally, Toy Shops have been held at seven local Salvation Army service centers, where volunteers would escort parents and help them pick out presents for their children. The Salvation Army implemented this year’s new, contactless Toy Shop model to protect the health of guests, volunteers and staff.
More than 600 volunteers signed up to help at this year’s distribution, which runs Dec. 17-23. These selfless men, women and young adults spend hour after hour restocking shelves, filling toy orders, and delivering presents to families waiting outside in their cars.
One of the volunteers is 20-year-old Alexis Jorgensen. She signed up to help for 12 hours on the first day of Toy Shop.
“I volunteer because I love imagining the looks on the kids’ faces when they get these toys,” said Jorgensen, who has been helping at Salvation Army Toy Shops for the past six years. “I love knowing that I am helping somebody to have a good Christmas.”
Volunteers are not the only heroes of Toy Shop. So, too, are the people and organizations that donated toys and held toy drives. Significant donations to this year’s Toy Shop were made by KTIS listeners, King of Kings Lutheran Church in Woodbury, attendees of the GLOW Holiday Festival in St. Paul, KSTP’s Stuff the Sleigh toy drive, and many others.
“Nobody will know, this side of heaven, the lives that they’re affecting right now,” Major Scott Shelbourn, Secretary for The Salvation Army Northern Division, said in a touching KSTP story about Toy Shop. “(Toy Shop volunteers and donors) can go with joy in their heart knowing they helped a family.”