Christmas giveaways make the season bright for hundreds Saturday

By Garrison Wells Updated: December 22, 2013 at 8:07 am • Published: December 21, 2013 | 3:20 pm 0
photo - Ashley Garcia has a big hug for Santa after picking out a Barbie at the Bob Telmosse' Christmas Giveaway. Thousands attended the annual giveaway at Freedom Financial Services Expo Center on Saturday, December 21, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
Ashley Garcia has a big hug for Santa after picking out a Barbie at the Bob Telmosse' Christmas Giveaway. Thousands attended the annual giveaway at Freedom Financial Services Expo Center on Saturday, December 21, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

For hundreds of local residents, Christmas came with a gentle touch and a tad early.

Saturday was filled with giveaways -- turkeys, coats, stuffed stocking, toys and most specially, bicycles.

At the Salvation Army on Yuma Street, the line was 40 families deep at 8 a.m.

At 9 a.m., the granddaddy of giveaways in Colorado Springs - The Bob Telmosse Christmas Giveaway -- kicked into gear.

Meanwhile, at the Salvation Army, Barbara and Steven Young received a stocking, a coat and two turkeys with all fixings for Christmas dinner.

This year, they are feeding eight -- six kids and a pair of new twins, Barbara Young said.

They were assisted by Melissa Schullek, a volunteer.

As they walked out of the parking lot, their gifts in a red Salvation Army cart, Steven Young softly said: "They've been good to us."

Ryan Bearchell, a cadet from Los Angeles, and his wife, Jennifer, were helping. They're training for the Salvation Army.

The giveaway had 550 families registered, he said, and the big concern was whether there would be enough turkeys.

There were so many turkeys donated from residents that he estimated they rolled in at a rate of about one per minute Friday.

While the Telmosse Giveaway in its 31st year, was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Saturday, one family got there at 9 p.m. Friday, said Carol Reinert, a member of the Telmosse Foundation board.

Compared with the Salvation Army event, this one was festive, despite an average four-hour wait with antsy kids in a line that snaked into the huge Freedom Financial Services Expo Center.

The difference between the Salvation Army and Telmosse giveaways?

People did not have to justify their need at the Telmosse giveaway, Reinert said. If they showed up, they received gifts.

It was that simple.

"That's the part I like about this the most," she said. "They get to keep their dignity. We see some really proud people, but it could be us any time."

The other difference were therapy animals, dogs and pint-sized Shetland ponies.

The horses were adorned in festive attire and wore specially designed sneakers to keep from slipping on the concrete floor. They were escorted around the facility by their handlers and drew the rapt attention of kids.

"This was the best thing we could do for the kids," Reinert said.

The Expo Center was jammed. The crowd, she said "is huge."

The experience started just outside of the entrance.

There, holding signs, Sarah Kelso and Will Ackerman peddled hugs and gave away dollar bills.

It was an either, or. You got the dollar or you took the hug.

"I just decided to see who is going to give out more hugs or give out more money," between the two, Ackerman said.

Some people were forgoing the buck for the hug.

For others, it was difficult to pass up the dollar.

Ackerman said he hoped to give out $100 in all.

"I just thought what a great thing to do, especially for people in need," Ackerman said.

While there were 1,198 dinners to be given away, by about 9:30 a.m. 90 turkeys had been handed out, said Karen Rowan, the volunteer in charge of food.

But on the most-wanted list, at least for the kids, were the bicycles.

There were 545 bicycles to give away, although donations were rolling in even on Saturday.

They were the last stop on the tour, lined up in rows. And they were handed out based on a lottery drawing because of the demand.

You had to win one, like Shiloh Chavez, who picked out a green bike and was fitted for a helmet.

He rode the bike out, shaky at first, but gained steam as he became more familiar with it.

It was a high-five moment for Shiloh and his great-aunt Betty-Jo Vigil, who brought him to the center.

"He's had a hard life," she said. "But he's happy now."

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