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In A Magical Warehouse, Salvation Army Volunteers Bring Christmas To Needy Kids

At homes throughout North Texas, many parents are wrapping gifts thanks to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. Over the past several weeks, thousands of North Texans have donated toys and clothes.

But how do those gifts get to kids in time for Christmas? Credit scores of helpful volunteers.

The Salvation Army warehouse in Dallas is so big that it takes a forklift to move around boxes and boxes of balls, coats and other gifts.

Bill Baracani, a Salvation Army volunteer, rummaged through the toys for the good girls and boys.

“A lot of dolls, Barbie dolls, a little bit of clothing, which is good,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of La La Loopsy lip gloss bracelets.”

He laughed.

Baracani is in Toyland.

For the past few weeks, he and hundreds of loyal volunteers have sorted through the piles of presents.

This Christmas, more than a quarter of a million gifts will be given to more than 50,000 recipients.

Baracani, who works at Southwest Airlines, has volunteered for eight years. He even spends some of his vacation time at the warehouse.  

It touches his heart.

“This is pretty much what people are going to get for Christmas in that family …”

His voice trailed off. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he re-collected his thoughts.

“If people were exposed to what Christmas is for other family members or families in general, they probably would have a greater appreciation of their own Christmas,” Baracani said.

Does Baracani feel like he’s one of Santa’s elves?

“Yes, I think so,” he said. “They could have all the presents in the world here but if it weren’t for volunteers the gifts couldn’t be distributed in a timely fashion and they would never get to the angels themselves.”

We are Santa’s elves, building Santa’s shelves,

with a toy for each girl and boy, oh, we are Santa’s elves.

A dollhouse for Jacqueline

Pat Patey, a Salvation Army spokesman, is grateful for those who help make Christmas happen – both the volunteers and those who donate gifts.

“It’s just a humbling and monumental feat that they accomplish for us,” he said.

Getting the perfect gift to the right child takes a lot of organization.

One recent afternoon, volunteers pushed shopping carts across the warehouse. They were armed with slips of yellow paper with names of kids and the toys and clothes they have requested.

One piece of paper listed Jacqueline, who is getting a dollhouse, while Vicente is getting shoes.

The gifts have been sorted into pink plastic bags – and each bag has a number on it. So the volunteers have to hunt down the correct numbered bag from thousands of bags that sit on rows and rows of shelves.

"It means the world"

The volunteers handed off the toys to parents who have arrived at the warehouse.

Dee Dee Davis was picking up presents for her three sons.

She’s had a painful year. Soon after she gave birth to twins, one of them died. Her other baby stayed in the hospital for many months. He recently came home.

As a result, she hasn’t been able to work this year.

The generosity is overwhelming for the Richardson resident.

“It means the world,” she said. “It’s a huge blessing.”

She cried.

“Whenever I get back on my feet, I would love to donate to do what I can to help this cause,” she said.

Davis looked through the bags in her cart. They were filled with goodies for her 12-year old and 4-year-old sons. And there were even gifts for her 9-month-old, Egypt.

Diapers, clothes, socks, a learning toy.

“Everything he needs,” she said.

“I couldn’t thank them enough,” she said. “If there was someone I could hug, I would.”

This Christmas, she can thank the Salvation Army and Santa’s elves.

They’re all around her.

Learn more about the Angel Tree program here.

Watch Angel Tree volunteers in action:

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.