Brightly wrapped gifts. Stockings stuffed with toys. The sounds of Christmas carols in the air. Shoppers carefully examining the merchandise, trying to match the right gift to the right recipient.
Although this may sound like a shopping trip to Marley Station Mall, it is the Salvation Army's Annual Toy Shop, where people who have fallen ondifficult times can select gifts and food for their families for free.
Amid a legion of volunteers stands Peggy Vick, director of the Salvation Army's Family Service Center in Glen Burnie. Pausing after giving instructions to the group, she offers a prayer for their missionof goodwill.
Melanie Thompson, office manager at the center, sitssurrounded by forms and paperwork. She knows most of the clients by name and is familiar with their individual circumstances. Vick refersto Thompson as her "key front person -- like an IBM computer."
The clients sit quietly, awaiting their turn. Once their name is called, a hostess will help each of them to select the toys. Each child in a family will receive a filled stocking, a teddy bear or a doll, two new toys, already wrapped, and two or three used toys selected by their parent.
Yesterday's toy shop was the culmination of weeks of preparation by Vick and her staff.
"We started accepting applications in November. We act as a clearing house to match families with helpwithin the community," explained Vick. "There has been an increase in need this year but we found there was an increase in volunteers to help."
Throughout the day more than 50 volunteers will help Vick'sclients -- assisting in the gift distribution, helping families thathave requested only food contributions or answering questions.
A woman stops Vick to give her a hug and a wish for a Merry Christmas. Then she picks up a plastic sack full of toys and heads home.
"Today is a wonderful day, to see it all work," said Vick. "The SalvationArmy is so grateful to the community for all they've done. Without their help, over 2,000 kids in the Glen Burnie area wouldn't have muchof a Christmas."