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Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program distributes gifts in Marietta

Mason Beuhring, communication and program services director at Marietta Community Foundation, fits a bike into the back of an Angel Tree family’s car Thursday morning, while Heather Allender, president and CEO of the foundation, waits with more packages. (Photo by Michele Newbanks)

Approximately 560 Washington County children will have presents under the Christmas tree as a result of this year’s Salvation Army Angel Tree program in Marietta.

Gifts were distributed drive-thru style at the rear of the fair board office at the Washington County Fairgrounds on Thursday.

Lt. Megan Moretz of the Salvation Army in Marietta said this was done as a drive-thru at a secondary location to keep the parents and volunteers safe. Their offices are on Front Street in Marietta.

“There’s no way we could have done this on Front Street,” she said.

“I’d like to use a warehouse again next year if we have as many families sign up for the program,” Moretz said.

A majority of the gifts were distributed Thursday, with five appointments set up every 15 minutes for pick up.

“It’s been chaotic in one sense, as we’ve had a lot of differences from last year,” Moretz said. “Having a secondary location for the first time. Obviously having three times the number of kids we’re used to having. Just all the precautions we’ve had to take with COVID make for a very different year.”

The Salvation Army tried to get the word out to Washington County residents about deadlines for registration for the program, but people were allowed to sign up after the deadline.

The kids will receive gifts “through the generosity of the community and the toy drive that the (Marietta) Community Foundation did.”

She said the Marietta Community Foundation and her volunteers have gone above and beyond to help the kids.

“The community has come out strong in support of this program again this year,” she said.

The foundation became a major supporter of the Angel Tree program this year after the county’s Secret Santa was canceled.

Mason Beuhring, the foundation’s communications and program services director, said there were a few last minute signups and gifts were bought this week for them.

“We purchased gifts for 24 children on Monday,” he said, adding 22 more children were bought gifts on Wednesday since some of the kids had Angel Tree tags that weren’t adopted.

Beuhring said Thursday morning, five bikes were bought after kids requested them and didn’t receive them.

He said a total of 46 kids were bought for this week and they tried to spend around $100 per child. The foundation provided an extra $1,000 for gifts in case a child didn’t receive as much as a sibling.

Along with purchasing extra gifts, the foundation provided $5,750 for food vouchers, so a $25 gift card to Warren’s IGA could be given to each of the 230 families.

To help fund the additional gifts, a growth fund was set up at the foundation. Some $10,000 was donated as startup money.

“Another way to impact is donating to the fund for that,” Beuhring said. “Because of the fund, we were able to make sure last minute or not-enrolled kids have a great Christmas.”

He said the foundation intends to have involvement in the program again next year, although he’s not sure in what capacity. He just hopes people continue to give to the fund.

“I want to see it grow and expand and help more kids,” he said.

He said he enjoyed being able to shop for the kids as he got to be creative with gift giving. It helps alleviate some of the pressure parents have been feeling.

“Parents have enough to worry about on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

Moretz said people were grateful for the gifts they received and the food vouchers were a nice surprise.

“The surprise was really well received because we didn’t tell them to expect the food card, so that was something they worked out last minute with Warren’s IGA and we were able to do that,” Moretz said. “The people who need this program really don’t know where they’re going to get Christmas presents for their children. That’s something they worry about. They’ve been very grateful for what they received.”

She said she heard a lot about how hard this year has been, especially for people already living in poverty.

“How do you work the job you need to work when your kids are out of school?” she asked. “That’s something a lot of these parents are facing.”

She said at least they won’t have to worry about what to put under the Christmas tree.

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