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Salvation Army nears goal as other charities report successful Christmas toy drives

By Meredith Shamburger
Dec. 27, 2017 at 11:54 p.m.

Stacy Garcia collects donations for the Salvation Army's Red Kettle drive in November at the Methvin Street post office in downtown Longview.

A final-week surge of giving helped bring the Longview Salvation Army close to its Red Kettle campaign fundraising goal.

Salvation Army Lt. Nicholas Hutchinson said the campaign, which had a goal of $160,000, ended with more than $150,000.

The campaign was at about $93,000 with a week left before Christmas.

"(The total) wasn't quite to our goal, but we still consider it successful," Hutchinson said Wednesday. "The cold weather really put a damper on quite a few days there, but it went well."

Money raised from the Red Kettle campaign funds the Angel Tree program along with utilities, food and necessities for the Salvation Army shelter.

Hutchinson also said the Angel Tree program provided gifts for almost 1,200 children and seniors.

Other Longview-area nonprofit groups reported mostly success with their Christmas toy drives.

Toys for Tots organizer Jerry Crutcher said donations were slightly down at the various toy drops this year.

"That was down some this year, but we managed to get enough toys in and what have you to fill the need," Crutcher said.

This year's Toys for Tots drive helped about 500 children, Crutcher said. That number is about the same as last year, but this year, Crutcher said Toys for Tots helped more families and saw more organizations signing up to help.

"I can say that Longview supporters of Toys for Tots have come through once again, and we had a successful season," Crutcher said. "The kids loved (the toys), and ... the few you get to see the faces when they get the toys — it's well worthwhile."

Longview police officers hosted their Blue Santa program, collecting toys and other gifts for children involved in a family violence incident or other event to which officers responded.

Blue Santa also benefits children who have lost belongings in a house fire. Toys are distributed before Christmas, and the department also hosted a Breakfast with Blue Santa event. Some toys also are kept back to give to children for comfort in an emergency situation.

Officer Kristie Brian, a board member of the Blue Santa program, said this year's drive helped 126 children.

"We would like to thank all our donors who helped make it possible for us to help the children we come in contact with during the year," she said. "Our goal, which we achieved again this year, was to bring smiles to the faces of our local children."

Newgate's Angel Tree Program at Havertys and Chick-fil-A helped more than 500 children in 200 families, said Jerry Gardner, who helps coordinate that Angel Tree program.

Volunteers spent several days working out of a Havertys warehouse to prepare gifts children, he said.

This year's program had three trees: One at Havertys and two at both Longview Chick-fil-A restaurants.

"It was very successful," Gardner said, noting they were interviewing families for the program right up until Christmas Eve.

The Angel Tree program highlights children in need who were identified by their school counselors beginning in October. This was the program's 27th year, and Gardner said the mission always has been to make sure every child in Longview would have a Christmas.

"We wanted to be sure that no child would be lost through the cracks," he said.

Gardner said the annual event is a community effort that really shows how generous Longview residents are.

Meanwhile, the Hiway 80 Rescue Mission reported about 700 children received Christmas gifts through its annual Christmas party program. The shelter served about 1,000 people between lunch and dinner Saturday. Associate Director Rusty Fennell noted about 200 volunteers helped Saturday.

The numbers of people served are about the same, he said.

"Numbers have remained relatively consistent between this year and last year," he said. "There are a lot of agencies that are helping out at this time."

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