Carol Szarenski woke up Friday morning with a strong feeling of purpose and eagerness to get to work at the Salvation Army's Angel Tree distribution day. Miss Szarenski, the Food and Toy Distribution Coordinator for the Salvation Army, said her eagerness to give back to the community started at a young age.

"My parents are the most service-oriented people I know. I learned from them. I just love helping people," she said during one of the Salvation Army's busiest days of the year.

Friday was the first of two days when the agency handed out gifts and food to families who receive help through its Angel Tree program. 

"Today is the day where we actually hand out gifts, food and bikes to the families, and we will do this for two days. This is the accumilation of a six month process," Miss Szarenski said.

According to Miss Szarenski, the best part of the Angel Tree program is distribution day. Beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, the doors opened for the parents of 2,500 Angel Tree recipients to collect their kids' requested items, including bikes, toys and food.

"This truly is the best part. You see these people come in, and they are so excited. They are so appreciative. When you see this part here, this makes it all worth it, because you know you're helping people out that really need it," she said.

Over the past four weeks, the Salvation Army worked to recruit donors to provide gifts for the kids in the program. All 2,500 angels were adopted before the deadline.

Salvation Army volunteer Phillip Farrington said 75 percent of the Angel Tree recipients speak Spanish as their first language. Mr. Farrington is bilingual and uses both Spanish and English throughout  distribution day to help the recipients get their request itmes in a timely manner.

"The response we get back is very good, especially if they recieve a large gift. When they come through the line, they get a white card, which is for a gift and a food bag, and the pink cards are for a bicycle," Farrington said. "I'm hearing lots of thank yous today, especially if they get a pink card."

Salvation Army workers and volunteers planned to continue distribution of gifts at 8 a.m. Saturday morning. Pickup time for gifts was set to end at 11 a.m.

Twitter: @TMTMelissa

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