Making Christmas possible for those in need

KENSINGTON - December 22, 2011

With dolls in mind, Tyesha Stewart of Logan scoured the piles of donated gifts to find just the right ones for her baby on the way and for her daughter Kayla, who just turned 4.

Kayla is too young to understand that money has been really tight this year.

"I don't have the money to give her Christmas," said Stewart. "And every day she asks me, 'Is Santa going to come visit me?' And every day I say, 'I'll try my best to have Santa come visit you.'"

The Stewart family is among the 500 this holiday depending on the toy giveaway at the Salvation Army Philadelphia Pioneer Corps Community Center in Kensington.

The families have all worked with the organization throughout the year. The Salvation Army says the need this year has been especially great.

"It's been greater than I ever experienced in 18 years," said Salvation Army Major Alma Riley. "Requests for help have not stopped coming."

"We live in a room and we have to pay bills," said Stewart. "And everything's just not quite right. I don't have a job."

Dozens of volunteers walked with parents Thursday, scoping out two gifts per child, sorted out by age and gender. The Salvation Army has been holding toy distributions like this throughout the city.

Organizers say their toy distributions will help between 6,000 and 7,000 families in Philadelphia this year. The Stewart family is grateful to be one of them.

"She has a stroller--for her little baby princess to sit inside," said Tyesha Stewart. "And this is for my newborn baby, so when she comes in April she'll have a toy to play with. This is great, and I really appreciate everything."

And most importantly, she says, so will Kayla.

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