Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Volunteers Fill Christmas Wishes Giving out Toys

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Volunteers Fill Christmas Wishes Giving out Toys

Article excerpt

A little girl from the North Side asked her grandma if she could keep a secret.

Yes, her grandma said.

"Santa's not real," the little girl said. Her friend had told her so.

Ashley Payne rose early Saturday to get in line at a Strip District storage facility to prove her 6-year-old daughter, Lexionna, wrong about Christmas. Ms. Payne brought coffee in a Styrofoam cup and a folding canvas chair for the wait, hours before a toy giveaway at Guardian Storage was to open at 9 a.m.

"There are a lot of kids out here who wouldn't otherwise get a present," Ms. Payne said. "Nobody wants to be needy."

Ms. Payne, the 27-year-old mother of three children ages 6 through 12, struggles to make ends meet working as a part-time waitress. The Toys for Tots and Salvation Army's Treasures for Children program sponsored the toy giveaway, which Ms. Payne was counting on to help show her daughter that Santa is, in fact, real, providing things for her that only a magical man with a jolly laugh in a reindeer-drawn sleigh could bring.

Ms. Payne was among hundreds of parents, grandparents and great grandparents who lined the block starting at 5 a.m. Saturday for the second day of the event. By 11:30 a.m., the line had thinned out, snaking around the corner and into a garage bay where volunteers handed out bicycles with glittery handlebar streamers, red Hula Hoops and plastic bags stuffed with games and toys.

"Organized chaos is the best way to describe it," said Marine Staff Sgt. Charles Brashear, 30, who coordinated the event. "All kinds of moving parts."

A count of the number of people who turned out this year was not available, Mr. Brashear said, but some 36,000 needy kids received toys last year. About 60 volunteers helped out Saturday, registering families and filling bags with toys.

But not everyone left with a Christmas list that was all checked off.

Rebecca Ross, a 33-year-old mother of four young children from Monroeville, said 4-year-old daughter Haylee had been insistent about getting a bicycle for Christmas this year. …

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