Toys distributed for tots Saturday

An expansive warehouse on Mallory Way was bustling Saturday morning as the Salvation Army distributed toys for those children who might not otherwise get anything for Christmas.

Hundreds of moms and dads, representing more than 400 families, filed through rows of stuffed animals, Barbie dolls, bikes and everything in between as volunteers hustled to fill gift lists.

Eliva Casta-eda, a young Carson City mom with four children, spoke Spanish through volunteer interpreter Maria Batt, but the tears in her eyes said more than words.

"I'm very happy," she said. "We had no money to buy toys."

Leticia Senda, migrant program coordinator with the Carson City School District, said many of the families she works with are constantly moving from job to job and toys are a luxury.

"I work with 25 families and every one of them leaves here with tears in their eyes," she said. "Most don't expect this kind of generosity and when it comes, they often can't find the words. But they are so grateful."

About 25 volunteers showed up for the event to wrap presents and otherwise assist families in finding the right toy.

There were fewer donations this year and the number of people needing help increased, according to Capt. Amanda Mitchell, spokesperson for the Salvation Army. The organization gathered 3,200 toys this year, down from last year's total of 5,000.

Those receiving gifts are screened and interviewed by Salvation Army Family Services and numbers have risen, from 353 in 2000 to 411 this year.

"We had some toys left over from last year, and I think we'll have enough," Mitchell said.

Kim Riggs, homeless advocate for the Carson City School District, organized a number of volunteers for this effort working with the school's "Even Start" program.

In addition to offering guidance in parenting skills and programs for pre-kindergarten children, the program identifies young children whose parents have not graduated from high school or do not speak English and helps the entire family move toward literacy.

Advocates spend time with individual families each week and many taking advantage of the program Saturday knew the advocates, providing a continuity for this program, according to Riggs.

"The Salvation Army does an awesome job," Riggs said. "So do the churches, like St. Peter's (Episcopal), St. Paul's (Lutheran) and St. Teresa's (Catholic)."

According to Mitchell, toys in Carson City are usually distributed at the National Guard Armory, but this year a new distribution point had to be secured because the Guard is on alert following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent actions in Afghanistan.

The Nevada Appeal hosted the toy distribution at the newspaper's new building on Mallory Way.


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