STEUBENVILLE - Maj. Earline May opened the doors to the Salvation Army building on North Fourth Street early Tuesday.
The annual food and toy distribution wasn't set to begin until 10 a.m., but May said she noticed people lined up outside in the cold.
"At least they can wait in here where it is a little warmer," she said as she checked her list of the 100 anticipated recipients.
A?HELPING?HAND — Steubenville firefighter Chris Takach carries a 60-pound food bag for a recipient Tuesday at the Salvation Army Christmas food and toy distribution. The city firefighters volunteered during the distribution to help carry presents and food for waiting vehicles. - Dave Gossett
"I do this every year because of the satisfaction it brings me. This is about doing the most good for those in need at this time of the year," related May.
"I have been doing this for the past 38 years and every time I think I have seen everything there is something new. I just had a call Monday from a family who lives next door to a house that was on fire. The family told me everything in their home, including the presents for their children, was damaged by smoke from the next door fire. They were asking for some help. So we have invited them to come in Wednesday when we have a few extra toys for the kids along with a food bag," explained May.
"It is a good feeling to be able to help people and do something that will make a difference in people's lives," May added.
Several Steubenville firefighters arrived just in time to start carrying the larger presents and the 60-pound food bags to the recipients' vehicles.
May said each food bag contained canned food, instant potatoes, stuffing mix, cereal, dried milk and butter along with a Kroger gift card. It is enough food for a Christmas Day dinner and three days after that.
"We try to do our part. We usually have the time and this is giving back to the community we serve," observed firefighter Chris Takach.
May said the Salvation Army kettle campaign will end at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
"We are seeing a strong contribution this year, which is amazing given the state of the economy. But we are down about $8,000 so far this year because we couldn't start our kettle campaign at Wal-Mart until after the Black Friday shopping day. That put us back a little this year, so I am hoping for a strong finish," said May.
As the line of people started presenting identification and collecting their Kroger gift cards and food bags, May stayed busy distributing the bags of toys for the children.
"We had 12 angel trees at local places this year and people adopt a child's name from the tree and then buy presents for that child. We picked up two additional angel tree locations this year and are always open to additional angel tree sponsors in the future," said May.
And once the Christmas distribution is completed May said she will start preparing for the Salvation Army New Year's Day dinner.
"Its from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. here at the Salvation Army, and the dinner is open to the public. Everyone is invited," May stated.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)