Nearly 2,000 families pick out gifts for their children at annual Christmas Bureau Distribution

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Spreading some Christmas joy this holiday season! The Salvation Army held its annual Christmas Bureau Distribution at the Oncenter on Wednesday. Eligible families were given a time slot to pick out gifts, books, and a food basket at the annual event.

Gifts under the tree and a smile on your child’s face on Christmas morning are what bring joy to Onondaga County resident Mariellis Gomez.

“It’s definitely great, definitely will help you out when you are going through your own situations like they are definitely there,” says Gomez, mother in Onondaga County.

The mother of three says her kids are asking Santa for a lot of different things this Christmas. However, Gomez says she can only do a certain amount and is grateful for the extra help she’s getting.

“They are here to help you. You can at least get a few things for your kids, and they wake up and think Santa Claus came, and you see a little smile on their face, so that’s really good,” says Gomez.

Nearly 2,000 eligible families in Onondaga County registered for this year’s event, equating to about 8,000 people, and 4,500 of them are children.

“Over the last multiple decades, Christmas Bureau just gets bigger and bigger and bigger, which I got to say right off the top, it’s a blessing and a curse. Of course, we’re happy to be here providing Christmas to so many people. Still, it is bittersweet that this is a demonstration of how many people are in need in our community,” says Gina Lazara, Public Relations and Special Events Manager for Salvation Army.

A need so high that it keeps volunteers coming back each year.

“The families are so appreciative. They are always so kind and thankful and grateful, and they’re just a joy to work with. They really are,” says Kathy Kaminski, a volunteer.

During the distribution, families are paired with a volunteer and have the chance to shop around, picking out what gift their child wants this Christmas. Whether families are shopping for a boy or a girl, there is so much to choose from. Once you’re done picking out toys, the shopping doesn’t end there. Families can then choose a book for each child.

Lazara added, “Then they are going to head out the door, and they get a big box of food. It’s going to have enough food to last them hopefully a week’s worth of holiday, food and they also get a Wegmans gift card.”

The Christmas Bureau Distribution has been happening for decades. However, last year the event was held as a drive-thru because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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