SALT LAKE CITY — Thanks to those who donated to the Salvation Army's Angel Tree, more than 5,000 kids will wake up to presents on Christmas morning who may not have otherwise.
"It's very beautiful. We're very grateful to be here and for the gifts that we received," Dulce Ocampo said.
Jorge and Dulce Ocampo were at the charity's rented warehouse space at the state fairgrounds Friday morning, picking up gifts for their two children, ages 7 and 11.
They thought they had missed the deadline to sign up, Jorge Ocampo said, but an employee from the school called them to remind them and help them get on the list.
They left the distribution site with clothes, shoes, toys and "everything we need" for Christmas, all in excellent condition, Dulce Ocampo said.
Becky Young's family — including five children from ages 2 to 14 — lost everything in their home to a fire in August, so she was grateful for Angel Tree and Toys for Tots for helping out during the Christmas season.
They were among the hundreds of families who filed through the building on Friday, the final day of the Salvation Army distributing gifts to families as part of the Angel Tree program.
Friday's recipients were those selected by the Salt Lake City School District, usually identified by school counselors and staff earlier in the year.
Families from Davis and Granite school districts received their gifts Wednesday and Thursday, along with those selected by the Salvation Army itself.
Maj. Troy Trimmer, the Salvation Army's Salt Lake Basin coordinator, said that over the three days of distribution, more than 1,500 families, 5,300 kids, 1,700 senior citizens and 7,000 people received gifts.
All items given out during Angel Tree were donated or purchased new with donated money.
The Salvation Army accepts and distributes used donations throughout the year, but the group is dedicated to giving children a special Christmas.
"At Christmas especially, we think it's important that the child has a new item under the tree," Trimmer said.
Trimmer has worked in the Salvation Army for more than 30 years, in several states and cities, and said Salt Lake City has the biggest Angel Tree program of any he's worked at thanks to large amounts of both donors and volunteers.
"We're blown away," he said. "The volunteerism and the benevolence of the state of Utah ... We couldn't do this kind of program at this level without the type of community we live in. So we're really grateful to all of the Utahns who helped us out."Comment on this story
More than 100 volunteers were on hand Friday, Trimmer said, and about 45 in the previous two days.
Mike Harman, Salt Lake City School District homeless education liaison, said many families and kids receiving help from the Salvation Army don't actually have a place to call their own this Christmas.
"Many of them wouldn't be getting something else if it wasn't for this program, and so it's great to be able to help support that," he said. "The kids — even if they're experiencing homelessness — are going to have something to open up on Christmas Day."