Salvation Army program delivers gifts, smiles

Jonathan Selvage hustles a shopping cart of toys out to a waiting car during distribution day Wednesday at the Salvation Army.  Jonathan is the son of Salvation Army Capts. Terry and Cheryl Selvage.

Jonathan Selvage hustles a shopping cart of toys out to a waiting car during distribution day Wednesday at the Salvation Army. Jonathan is the son of Salvation Army Capts. Terry and Cheryl Selvage. Photo by Kelley McCall.

A couple months ago, Belinda Woodard’s 4-year-old realized whomever took his bike from their front yard was not going to return it.

So Wednesday when Woodard saw the orange, youth-sized bicycle rolling her way as she picked up her gifts at The Salvation Army’s distribution day, it was like Christmas for her.

“He’ll be so happy,” she said with a shining smile. “It’s really a blessing to know that people really care and want to reach out to people in need.”

The Salvation Army will have helped provide toys, clothing and groceries to about 300 families, representing nearly 1,300 individuals in Mid-Missouri this Christmas season.

On Wednesday, donations from the community were given to families who signed up for the Angel Tree program. The army also provides Christmas presents to Center of Hope residents and through the Mommy and Me and youth programs.

And they have put together gifts for recent fire victims.

“I pray some day I will be a blessing and I can give back to the community the way they’ve helped me and my family,” said Woodard, who hopes to enter nursing school at Lincoln University next year.

Like more than 65 percent of those who applied for assistance, this was Kim Jackson’s first time to sign up.

“It’s hard to ask for help,” Jackson said.

With both her and her husband unemployed, this has been the most challenging year ever for her family.

But with a 13-year-old at home, Jackson said she is grateful that this program will help provide something to go under their Christmas tree.

“Just to see her smile in the morning will be great,” Jackson said of her daughter. “She’ll be tickled pink.”

Oksana Koval enjoyed the smiles from the parents picking up their bags and bicycles Wednesday.

An exchange student studying business administration this school year at Lincoln University, the Ukrainian young lady was taking in the American good will.

“This is a time of giving gifts to each other,” Koval said. “I feel it’s important to do something more. It’s exciting and inspiring.”

Koval was among volunteers from Grace Episcopal Church, the university, family of army employees, and members of the Salvation Army Church.

“This is a unique distribution,” said Maj. Kendall Mathews, regional coordinator. “But it’s a long-standing tradition that may go back to its beginning here in 1923.”

And Jackson said she has been dropping her spare change into the army’s kettles when she can.

“I want to make sure someone else gets a little something, too,” Jackson said.

The Red Kettle Campaign, which supplements this gift-distribution program, continues through 3 p.m. today. As of Tuesday, the army had collected about $174,000 toward its $223,000 local goal.

This season, the local army benefited from Melinda Rickard as temporary volunteer coordinator. Capt. Terry Selvage said Rickard’s work has quadrupled the number of volunteer bell-ringers.

Rickard will leave for Haiti in January to teach English for six months as a missionary with the Living Water Christian Church.

“It’s my desire to see everyone helped in a respectable manner,” Rickard said. “Whether you see it or not, the need is always there.

“Seeing it every day gives me the motivation to do more.”

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