Salvation Army makes holiday happen

December 19, 2018

Bernadette Guzman has one December objective — give her children a joyful Christmas.

With the assistance of The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree and Empty Stocking Fund programs, the single mother of three will be able to accomplish that goal.

Guzman took bags filled with gifts, a box of food and two bicycles to her car on Tuesday morning at The Salvation Army of Odessa.

“It’s awesome that they do something like this for people that are struggling during the holiday season for the kids,” Guzman said. “The kids don’t understand, so they are blessed with something.

“They are going to be so happy and so surprised. They are going to have smiles on their faces.”

Salvation Army helped 320 families throughout Tuesday as people picked up their packages between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Lts. Juan Gomez and Clara Gomez had the opportunity to loosely portray Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. The husband and wife duo helped distribute more than 300 bags of toys and 70 bicycles during the Angel Tree program.

In addition to the holiday gifts, The Salvation Army also purchased food from the West Texas Food Bank. Each person received a box of food and a frozen turkey or an H-E-B gift card.

“We didn’t leave here until 1 a.m. (Tuesday morning) and to know they are here today, it’s like Christmas for me,” Clara Gomez said. “(My husband) is the backbone and I get to distribute.”

Guzman, who is unemployed as she takes care of her three children, needed assistance from the Angel Tree program about two years ago.

On Tuesday morning, Guzman brought her youngest son, Jeremiah, to the Salvation Army to pick up gifts. Guzman spoke with a Salvation Army volunteer as her son pointed and touched his older brother’s bicycles.

“This year, we are struggling with life in general,” Guzman said. “I know there are some people out there that take advantage of things and that’s wrong because there are people that need help.”

With The Salvation Army’s chapel lined with people looking for assistance, Juan Gomez said it shows there’s a need in the area. Juan Gomez passed out teddy bears to the children in the chapel.

Juan Gomez said for many people this opportunity isn’t a spur of the moment type of situation as most families registered and were vetted throughout October and November.

“When I see our chapel or our hallway this full, it tells me that there’s that much need,” he said. “It tells me that for these children, if it wasn’t for The Salvation Army and for the supporters The Salvation Army has, they wouldn’t have had a Christmas and that hurts.”

One of the first visitors to the Angel Tree program was Janet Peregrino.

Peregrino, who is unable to work after she had surgery on her gallbladder, has three girls and one of them received a giant white and pink teddy bear. She is grateful for the opportunity to have gifts waiting under the Christmas tree.

“It’s a relief. Everyone wants to see their kids happy, especially on Christmas,” Peregrino said. “As a parent, it’s a big relief for (The Salvation Army) to be doing something like this.”

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