The Washington Post

Legal group seeks to put smile on kids’ faces with holiday toy drive

The Salvation Army’s Desmond Burwell carries new bikes as employees and volunteers carry gift bundles for thousands of Washington area children. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)

Christmas Day has come and gone. But the two bags full of toys and the bikes Keisha Smith recently picked up from the Salvation Army for her six children likely will be remembered — and enjoyed — well beyond the season.

The 33-year-old single mother was one of 2,500 families in the District who benefited from the Salvation Army’s 40-year-old Angel Tree program, an operation that relied heavily on the generosity of the business community for donations.

The Association of Legal Administrators, which represents 204 local law firms, this year provided almost half of the gifts donated at the Hyattsville warehouse, where Smith collected the toys.

“We wanted to do something charitable and this is a very visible charity benefiting children and tears at everyone’s heart,” said Helen Woideck, vice president of community services for the local chapter of ALA, which has been involved in the campaign for more than 20 years.

Each winter, ALA sends an e-mail to the firms to kick off toy collections. After firms express their desire to participate, ALA sends a spreadsheet with names and ages of children. This year, 59 firms participated.

Lynni Megginson and other volunteers carry bags of toys at the Salvation Army’s warehouse at 5300 Tuxedo Rd. in Hyattsville. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)

King & Spalding was one of them.

The firm, which has 230 employees in its D.C. office, donated 720 gifts. Then, volunteers from the firm gathered in a conference room filled with Christmas music and holiday treats to organize the toys.

“It’s not hard to plan, and it makes everyone feel good to give,” said Judy Deason, director of administration at King & Spalding.

Other sponsors of the Angel Tree program included NBC Washington, Finnegan Henderson, Interstate Van Lines, AMC Theaters, Whole Foods Market and the D.C. United soccer team.

“The thing that’s unique about [ALA] is it’s the first association I’ve been involved with,” said Major Steve Morris, National Capital area commander for the Salvation Army. “Usually churches contribute or a company contributes, but the ALA has so many people in so many firms, it touches all levels of operation.”

During the distribution day, parents formed a line outside the facility. Inside, volunteers matched the bags of goods with list of recipients.

Volunteers hauled the bags back near the warehouse exit where they were often greeted with hugs from parents.

“It breaks my heart to think that any child would be without gifts on the holiday,” said Deason.

Vanessa Small covers philanthropy and nonprofits for Capital Business. She also spotlights newly appointed executives in the New at the Top column, which chronicles their journeys to the top. Small was raised in Orange County, Ca. and graduated from Howard University.



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