Operation Christmas Hope aims to help kids in need

Miriam Villalba picked out a gift for her 3-year-old girl at one of Arlington American Legion Post 76’s previous ‘Toys for Kids’ holiday toy distributions. - File photo.
Miriam Villalba picked out a gift for her 3-year-old girl at one of Arlington American Legion Post 76’s previous ‘Toys for Kids’ holiday toy distributions.
— image credit: File photo.

ARLINGTON — Arlington American Legion Post 76 has raised money for more than 20 years to buy toys for the children of families who receive holiday food baskets from the Arlington Community Food Bank, but this year, they can’t do it alone.

“The Food Bank hoped that we could help cover the difference,” said Tina Davis of the Union Bank branch in downtown Arlington, one of the coordinators of this year’s Operation Christmas Hope. “When we found out there were more than 700 kids who needed our help, we were blown away and left wondering how we could manage to pick up the tab for that many, until we realized that we all planned to do something and got smart about how to do it. With about 16 different banks and credit unions in the Arlington and Smokey Point areas, that’s only 45 gifts per financial institution.”

Although Davis hastened to add that the institution in question took the time to clear their participation in this campaign with both their respective employees and their corporate chains of command, she looks forward to enlisting the aid of the surrounding community, from staff members’ families and friends, to the banks’ and credit unions’ customers, on behalf of this seasonally spirited charitable venture.

“When I was 15 years old, my dad was diagnosed with cancer,” Davis said. “This was the 1970s, so his Social Security application took months. We found out that someone had put our names in for a Christmas basket when boxes of food and gifts showed up. My mom was crying. Even my dad had tears in his eyes. I was just so touched that someone would take the time to put together an assortment of gifts for people they didn’t even know.”

Operation Christmas Hope will be accepting unwrapped gifts — as well as financial donations through “giving trees,” where you can choose tags, and the members of Arlington American Legion Post 76 will do the shopping for you — through banks and credit unions throughout Arlington and Smokey Point up through Tuesday, Dec. 17. Davis expects that the upper floors of the Legion building at 115 N. Olympic Ave. in Arlington will again serve as the distribution site for the toys.

“We didn’t think it would happen this year, before Tina got involved,” said Sara Katanik of the Arlington Community Food Bank. “We already have 400 families signed up, and for many of their children, these gifts are the only ones they’re able to get. If we can pull this off, it’ll be a miracle.”

For more information, call Katanik at 425-220-3585, Davis at 360-435-6711 or Vanessa Pawley, of the Union Bank branch in Smokey Point, at 425-388-5595.

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