Newman community members volunteer for Christmas service tradition

Volunteers at Salvation Army
Vicki Bergkamp, ASC and Tarcisia Roths, ASC stand in front of bags filled with gifts to be distributed to those in need

Close to 40 Newman University faculty, staff, students and alumni took part in a longstanding holiday tradition to bring toys and other goods to families and children in need – the Salvation Army Christmas Distribution.

Newman students Candyce Portley and Andrew Sabala help with check out

Newman students Candyce Portley and Andrew Sabala help with check out

Members of the Newman community have volunteered for the distribution and participated in the accompanying Angel Tree Project for more than 25 years. This year’s Christmas Distribution took place on Thursday, Dec. 15 and continues through Friday, Dec. 16. Volunteers have also spent weeks preparing for the event.

Newman Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Rosemary Niedens said the process began in November, when families who wanted to participate began applying for the distribution. Those who qualified for assistance based on family size, income and other factors where entered into a database shared by the Salvation Army and other major Christian service organizations in Wichita.

Children under 16 then offered their Christmas wish lists, and items on the lists are placed on Angel Trees around town. People and organization donate the gifts, which are later sorted, collected into family groups and placed in bags by volunteers. Families are then notified of a specific time to arrive at the distribution center for pickup.

“Each family receives a card with a number as well as the time they should arrive,” Niedens said. “When they come in, they give us the card, and are guided down a line where they can pick up stocking stuffers or wrapping paper. Last year, an average of 60 families went through the line every 10 minutes.”

Major Joseph Wheeler with Salvation Army stands in front of Star of Hope gifts

Major Joseph Wheeler with Salvation Army stands in front of Star of Hope gifts

While families are selecting the stocking stuffers, runners take the numbers to the warehouse to retrieve the corresponding bag of gifts. In addition to the gifts, each family receives a food voucher from Dillons Food Stores, and a turkey provided by Cargill, Inc. Family members are also invited to pray with a representative from the Salvation Army in a separate room if they wish.

Niedens said “Star of Hope” gifts, which are generally household goods such as blankets and kitchen items for the elderly, disabled and very poor, are distributed simultaneously with the Salvation Army distribution.

Other sponsors of the event include Spirit AeroSystems, Koch Industries and several area banks. The distribution took place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 15. Families who did not apply in time can come Dec. 16 and receive the goods that are still available.

“The Salvation Army does this solely to make kids happy at Christmas,” Niedens said. “They and the people who volunteer for the distribution truly care.”

Newman staff members Linda Sabala and Debbie Haslam volunteering at Salvation Army

Newman staff members Linda Sabala and Debbie Haslam volunteering at Salvation Army

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