It will be a very merry Christmas

Salvation Army’s toy drive helps hundreds of families for holiday

Shoppers and volunteers make their way through the toy pick. (The Leader-Herald/Kerry Minor)

GLOVERSVILLE — Walking into the Gloversville Senior Center this week has been a different experience for its regulars.

Prior to Wednesday, the stage at the center had been filling up with toys along with the shed and storage rooms. On Wednesday, however, it had been transformed into a Christmas shop for families who needed a little help this Christmas.

The Salvation Army of Fulton County set up shop inside the Senior Center this year to do its annual distribution of toys collected by the community.

Rows upon rows of Barbies, lightsabers, teddy bears, wool hats, board games and science kits were lined up ready for families to shop for their needs.

Families were on hand to pick up their Angel Tag gifts as well. Angel Tags are cards that are filled out with a child’s information and their gift wish. Then, a community member volunteer picks up the gifts in question. Families were then able to pick up extra toys with the help of volunteers.

Some of the many toys at the distribution location. (The Leader-Herald/Kerry Minor)

Lt. Ann Marie Devanney said despite the new location, toy distribution was happening the same as every year, with families given a set time to show up. Upon arrival families were paired with a volunteer who would help them collect their Angel Tag gifts and pick up anything else needed from the tables.

Toys came from a variety of sources including donation boxes, toy drives, “Stuff the Sleigh” events and private donations.

“All of those toy collection and [toy] drives are completing the process so families are able to go through and shop personally for their kids. That’s really an empowering process for families, to be able to choose things for their children,” she said.

Many families also got winter coats and boots for their children and could pick up a donated knit hat.

Each family also leaves with a holiday meal featuring either a turkey or ham, potato flakes and stuffing mix among the many items. Smaller families get a gift card to Price Chopper.

Almost everything a family could need for a holiday dinner is packed and ready to give out at the drive. Families also got to chose between a ham or turkey for their main course. Smaller families got a Price Chopper gift card to pick out their own dinner. (The Leader-Herald/Kerry Minor)

Devanney said the food comes from Nathan Littauer Hospital in partnership with Rev. Bonnie Orth and a partnership with Hannaford to supply a food box.

Devanney said partnerships have been key to this year’s success, with more than a dozen businesses accepting donation boxes and places like Fulton-Montgomery Community College, Taylor Made and GE who did everything from Angel Tree to toy drives.

“Just a whole host of people in the community are generous beyond belief,” she said.

The Salvation Army also partnered with area agencies like The Family Counseling Center and churches to get connected to families.

Devanney said the Salvation Army is partnering with Victorian Manor this year to help their clients as well. She said Victorian Manor staff volunteers during the week to help with the soup kitchen and food pantry. They have now partnered with them to give back to the volunteers.

Bikes sit in the hallway of the Gloversville Senior Center during the Salvation Army of Fulton County Gift Drive collection awaiting their new owners. (The Leader-Herald/Kerry Minor)

“We helped them to provide Christmas, maybe for the first time in years, to their children or grandchildren,” She said.

Employees from WalMart Distribution Center were on hand to guide parents around to help pick up their gifts. The Ambluance Service of Fulton County collected, sorted and delivered boxes of donated goods.

Devanney was able to deliver a big surprise to several families this year. Thanks to an anonymous donor, 20 bikes with helmets will be given as gifts this year to children who requested them. The news brought some parents to tears as they were shown the bikes their children would be getting.

She said the donor is a family that likes to help the community.

“I said if it’s in your heart to do bikes, do it,” she said.

Lts. Mark and Ann Marie Devanney of The Salvation Army of Fulton County go over details of the Toy Drive pick up at the Gloversville Senior Center on Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Kerry Minor)

Salvation Army Volunteers went through all the applications and found all the kids who wanted bikes and worked to ensure with the donor that they would have them.

“They are local to Fulton County and they wanted to give back and they could afford to,” Devanney said. “We hear so much about the need in our community, but the generosity far surpasses the poverty. For as much need as there is, there are people to come alongside their neighbors and give them that boost.”

This was the first year distribution was held at the Gloversville Senior Center. Center Director Ellie DiScioscia said she has already asked the Salvation Army to come back next year.

She said the seniors enjoyed having the toys there, with many bringing ones in to add.

“Some of them asked if they could play with the toys,” she laughed.

She said the pairing of the two agencies for this seemed like a natural fit and things have gone well with the holiday partnership between the two.

Kerry Minor can be reached at