About 2,700 families came to the Christmas Bureau distribution in downtown Syracuse on Wednesday. It was one of their biggest years and largest operations as some of Syracuse’s most needing families received toys and food baskets.
Davasia McKinney was one of 7,000 kids to receive toys this year, and she chose a Dora the Explorer house.
“It was fun to play with,” McKinney said. “I was happy.”
A long line of pre-registered people wrapped around the inside and outside of the Oncenter. A volunteer personal shopper took them down one of four toy aisles where they got to pick out a significant name-brand gift such as a Star Wars, Barbie or Lego toy. Children also got to pick out a book provided by the United Way and a stuffed animal from the Syracuse Crunch’s Tired Teddy Toss. Older teens got movie tickets. People also ended up leaving with a grab bag of toys, a bible and a food basket with a turkey, potatoes and bread.
Maj. Karla Clark, the CEO of the Salvation Army for Onondaga County said it is not easy for families to ask for help and many are one paycheck away from poverty.
“To know that some of the circumstances that people are dealing with, whether it be the health of the primary provider of the family or whether it just be some unfortunate job loss," Clark said. "Those personal shoppers get that opportunity to really have that one-on-one interaction with these families. It’s rewarding, it’s heart-warming and it really also makes you appreciate what you have as well.”
About 1,500 volunteers helped make it all possible.
"Today would not happen, this opportunity to serve our community would not happen without a lot of community partners coming together," Clark said. "It wouldn’t happen without our donors who donate to us through the kettle, whether it be a few cents or a few dollars or those large checks. It would not happen without this community coming together and caring for our neighbors.”