After helping a recipient and a volunteer sort out which items should be in the recipient's shopping cart, Salvation Army Major April Taylor took a few minutes to stand back and admire what was going on.
"Both sides of it, both sides happening at the same time, it's spectacular. That's Christmas," she said. "That is Christmas."
Taylor is talking about the months-long process that is the Salvation Army's annual Christmas food and Angel Tree gift distribution. Only today, Friday and Saturday does she have a chance to see the fruits of her and her volunteers' labor: Needy families happily taking home items generous donors were happy to give.
Even before the three-day distribution, which will give food baskets to more than 4,300 families and gifts to more than 9,700 kids and seniors, Taylor and volunteers put in a lot of work.
It takes time to find families in need, verify their eligibility and get donations for what they need. Then it's a matter of coordinating more than 100 volunteers for each day of distribution.
Tascina Gambrell is one of those volunteers. She's worked at the distribution for the last four years, but this is the first time she'll be there all three days. And she still wants to do more.
"I think that's the hardest part for me, knowing the need and not being able to do more," Gambrell said. "But this is all I can do, and hopefully it will be OK."
Volunteers are making a big difference to recipients. Donisha Thompson has volunteered for the Salvation Army before. Today she's in the recipient line, waiting to brighten her kids' Christmas.
"My two boys are adopted from DHS, so they really, really appreciate — a lot — that I do for them, because I have saved those babies. I raised them," Thompson said. "And I've got twin girls, and they just love it."
The distribution runs through Saturday at the Salvation Army, 924 S Hudson Ave.