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Old department store turns North Pole for Salvation Army Angel Tree toy giveaway

The Salvation Army will make Christmas wishes come true for thousands of local children on Wednesday with its annual Angel Tree toy event.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Salvation Army will make Christmas wishes come true for thousands of local children on Wednesday with its annual Angel Tree toy event.

Toy collection was difficult last year because of the pandemic, but the charity still managed to give to 3,500 families.

Despite another difficult year for a lot of families, the local Salvation Army commander said challenges like the pandemic and inflation didn’t impact donations.

Salvation Army Northeast Florida expects to give toys to 4,000 families at this year’s event.

The former JCPenney’s at the Regency Mall is the headquarters for the Angel Tree distribution -- but it’s more like Santa’s workshop at the North Pole these days.

“We’ve been very pleased with the amount of gifts that’s come back. The size of the gifts, the generosity of the donors. It’s really overwhelmed us,” said Maj. Keath Biggers, the local Salvation Army commander. “Every child will have an abundant number of gifts on Christmas Day because of Northeast Florida’s giving spirit and generosity.”

The donations collected by the Salvation Army will go to families who can’t afford them.

Bonnie Jamison-Greene’s 12-year-old son is one of the recipients. This mom lost her husband five years ago and she says it has not been the easiest road. She says it’s no different this year as she faces a new challenge. Bonnie is battling cancer. She was diagnosed last year.

“I was not really sure how we were going to get a lot of the things done that we were accustomed to having and once again the angel tree program came through so many times for us,” Jamison-Greene said.

Santa also has helpers! Jen Lee has volunteered for the distribution three years in a row.

“I have two children of my own and it just would break my heart if I wasn’t able to give gifts to my babies,” Lee said. “It’s just great to see people smile.”

The Angel Tree event is NOT open to the public. Families receiving toys Wednesday have already signed up through the Salvation Army.

However, it’s not too late to give. Go to SalvationArmyNEFL.org for ways to donate.


About the Authors:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.