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Yule gifts distributed in Waukegan for 800 children

BellRanoel (left) Park City Cindy Galan Waukegan pick up stocking stuffer gifts for their children as part SalvatiArmy Angel Tree

Bella Ranoel (left) of Park City and Cindy Galan of Waukegan pick up stocking stuffer gifts for their children as part of the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 18, 2013 1:17AM

WAUKEGAN — Herminia Reyes beamed as she loaded three bicycles and a bag full of gifts into her vehicle Wednesday at a temporary office set up by the Salvation Army.

Reyes, a Waukegan resident, had come to Salvation Army once before a few years ago when times were tough. She came back this year because without help she wouldn’t have been able to buy her 10-year-old triplets, Tommy, Jonathan and Bryan, Christmas gifts.

“The Salvation Army is the best thing that ever happened to her,” Reyes said through interpreter Blanca Lara, a volunteer from the Waukegan Wendy’s restaurant. “To her, seeing the smiles on her sons’ faces is the best gift of all.”

Rebecca Friede, the community care ministries coordinator for the Salvation Army Waukegan Corps, said there were a number of families who were part of the agency’s Angel Tree. Others were found through social service agencies, schools and area churches. On the giving tree were tags with a child’s age and clothing size and their “need” list and “want” list.

“Some people just buy one thing and some people buy everything on the list,” she said. “The donors were really generous this year.”

Friede said there were 162 families registered for the Angel Tree pick-up and about 108 on a waiting list, which comes to about 800 children. Each child received four pieces of clothing, a coat, and two or three toys. The parent also got to select a stocking stuffer toy for each child and a toothbrush.

The pick-up was being conducted in the old Kia-Hyundai lot at 500 S. Green Bay Road in Waukegan, which had been donated for that use just weeks before. The large, wide-open areas allowed organizers to spread out the bags of toys and clothes labeled with a number that corresponds to a family.

There were also car seats, cribs, high chairs, strollers and more bicycles among the items that had not been picked up yet. The distribution continues today,

Jessi Wiles, 25, was picking up presents for her children, Marco, 4, Claudia, 2, Ellie, 3 and Dominick, who is a week old.

“I have been living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “I’ve been out of work the last three weeks because of my newborn son. I’m so glad someone was able to help.”

Courtney Stapleton, 24, of Waukegan, has four kids and her due date for her baby was Wednesday. She is supposed to be on bed rest, but her doctor gave her the OK to go and pick up the presents.

“It helps a lot,” she said. “It’s very, very important. If it wasn’t for (the Salvation Army) the kids probably wouldn’t have any gifts to open.”

Friede said she has been involved in the program for 10 years and it’s important because she remembers her mother struggling to get gifts over the holidays.

“I’m a product of this,” she said. “I do it all for the kids. They don’t need to know their parents don’t have the money to buy them toys. They’re just kids who want what other kids want.”

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