ALBANY, Ore. (KOIN) — Volunteers at American Legion Post 10 are checking their lists twice in preparation for their biggest event of the year. This Saturday, Dec. 21, they expect as many as 1,500 children to stream through the building and pick out toys for Christmas.
The toy giveaway is special for David Solomon, the commander of Post 10 in Albany.
“I have 21 grandchildren,” Solomon said. “Twenty of them are in New York City. I don’t get to see them. Christmas time kills me, but then again, with the smiles on these children’s faces when they see Santa Claus … it makes it all worth it.”
A retired medic and 9/11 first responder, Solomon moved to Oregon in 2007 and started the toy giveaway about five years ago.
“We just want to make sure that there is no child that doesn’t have a merry Christmas,” he said.
The American Legion’s toy giveaway is geared toward low-income families and veterans’ children in the counties around Albany. They spend the year reaching out to schools, welfare offices and other organizations to find kids in need. While they primarily aim to give presents to kids 12 and under, they do keep some gifts like fishing poles and lava lamps on hand for any older children who might show up.
The first toy giveaway had about 110 kids, according to Solomon. It has grown fast, passing the 1,000 mark. One year, they started running low on presents mid-way through the event.
“Our motorcycle group ran out to the stores and what they did was start buying more gifts and toys for us. And they came back, motorcycle loads, car loads of toys and we didn’t lose a beat,” Solomon said.
They’re prepared to do the same thing this year if the need arises. “No child will leave here without a gift,” he said.
The children’s Christmas party starts at noon Saturday at the post. Solomon said Boy Scouts will be serving hot cocoa outside since the line usually wraps around the building. Kids and their families can also get a free lunch. There will be face painting, photos and other entertainment.
The event couldn’t happen without the help of dozens of volunteers, Solomon said. The community as a whole is also responsible for donating cash and gifts. His friends back in New York even sent cases of toys.
“No bah humbugs or any Scrooges or anything. Everybody is so fantastic,” he said.
The Legion takes donations for the event all year long and starts preparing months ahead of time. If you’d like to contribute, contact American Legion Post 10.