WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Shoppers at the busy Walmart donated toys, clothing and money on Saturday to help local children have a better Christmas.
As part of a national campaign, the Wilkes-Barre Salvation Army and Wal-Mart held their first annual Fill the Truck for Local Kids at the Walmart in Wilkes-Barre Township. The event was tied in with the Salvation Army's 122nd annual Red Kettle Campaign, according to a company press release.
Lt. Ted Tressler from the Wilkes-Barre Salvation Army said the donations collected will be delivered to local families. All of the approximately 2,500 Walmarts across the country were expected to do the same in their communities, he said.
The donations will stay right here, Tressler said. We are trying to stay as local as we possibly can, he added.
This year about 2,000 local families will need some type of help from the Salvation Army, which is higher than usual, Tressler said.
It's not just the chronically homeless asking for help, he added. Many of the families asking for help this year were donors last year. Even families holding three jobs are having a hard time, he said.
Saturday's event was mostly about helping the kids, Tressler added. The focus was on making Christmas a little more magical for children in need, he said.
At least 440 children in the Wilkes-Barre area are on the distribution list, Tressler said.
Donors were asked to provide toys and winter wear such as coats, hats or scarves. Fliers providing suggested toy gifts were also provided.
Robert Walter, a Salvation Army member and former beneficiary of its services, said the organization and its members are always seeking ways to give back.
It's the community helping the community, Walter said. He manned the free coffee and hot chocolate stand provided for passing shoppers.
Walter added the Salvation Army helped him five years ago and he was able to start a new life. Being involved in Saturday's event gave him the chance to do something for local children, he said.
Tressler said he expects this to become an annual event.
The Salvation Army is excited to partner with Wal-Mart. Each year, Wal-Mart is there to help us meet the needs in our community and to provide a special Christmas to families and individuals who may not otherwise have much to celebrate at Christmas, he said.