- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - The pink bike is much too small for Shelley Burns to ride, but when a Salvation Army volunteer rolls it to her, she squeals like a child on Christmas morning.

The bike, decorated with Disney princesses Belle, Tiana and Sleeping Beauty, is for 4-year-old Ashley, who is spending her first Christmas with Ms. Burns, her grandmother. Burns said this is the first year that Ashley and her 2-year-old sister, Leela, will have a true Christmas celebration, complete with presents from Santa under a tree.

That’s thanks to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.

“We could have never gotten them a bike,” Ms. Burns said through tears. “It’s just super. They couldn’t have helped better kids.”

“And this is why we do it year after year,” Randy Tapp, a volunteer of 19 years, told The Herald-Times as Ms. Burns loaded the bike into her car.



The Salvation Army provided toys - including 113 bikes - and food vouchers for about 450 families and 1,000 children on Wednesday, according to Monica Clemons, social services director for the Bloomington Salvation Army, which serves all of Monroe County. Another 150 families will receive food baskets for holiday meals later in the week.

“They’re just glad to have something to give their kids,” said Mike Romy, a volunteer since 1981. “You get people who come in on a regular basis, then you get people who just need help one year.”

Doors opened at 8 a.m., but volunteers spent the past week sorting items and putting together gift packages in bright red, green and yellow plastic bags for pick-up.

This year’s hottest items? Anything related to Disney’s Academy Award-winning animated musical “Frozen.”

“That stuff went out the door almost immediately,” Mr. Romy said.

Parents and guardians also are given wrapping paper, and they have access to a room filled with small stocking stuffer items such as books, crayons and art supplies, baby dolls and winter hats.

“Just little things,” Mr. Romy said. “It’s not just, ‘Take this bag.’ It gives them a chance to pick something out. It makes it a little more personal for them.”

Whether he’s building with Legos and Play-Doh or staging missions with toy Army men, Cindy Baker says her grandson, Brandon, is “all boy.” But when it came to writing a wish list for Santa, the 4-year-old didn’t ask for much.

“I think he’ll be in shock,” Ms. Baker said after receiving her toy-filled bag. “I didn’t expect what I’ve gotten. It’s really impressive, and God bless them all.”

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