For around five years Oregon Legionnaire David Solomon has headed up the annual Christmas party and toy giveaway at American Legion Post 10 in Albany. The event started with 30 or so children in need receiving assistance, but last year that number rose to well over 1,000.
Knowing there would be a greater need this year because of circumstances arising from the coronavirus pandemic, Solomon knew the event would have to be adapted. But he was not going to let it get cancelled.
“I would not (cancel it) because these children would have no Christmas then,” said Solomon, in his second term as post commander. “We have gotten – I couldn’t tell you how many – calls from parents that are saying they have nothing to give their children because of COVID. They’re not working because of COVID. They need toys for their children, at least. And that’s our goal: to take care of the kids.”
On Dec. 19 in the Walmart parking lot in Albany, members of Post 10 stood out in the rain for three hours handing out Christmas presents to 1,350 children under the age of 12. It was an altered version of their annual effort; in past years, the post hosted a Christmas party that included hot chocolate, a meal for the children and their parents, and a couple of toys for each child. When the recipients had to stand in line outside the post waiting their turn in cold weather, Post 10 also provided free hats, scarves and gloves.
Santa Clause and Mrs. Clause would make an appearance, and last year characters from the movie “Frozen” also were in attendance. Santa was in attendance this year for pictures with the children, with all social distancing and safety protocols in place.
The post purchased $1,000 worth of toys and also received many more donated items. Toys are sorted by gender and age group before being distributed.
Solomon said both the children and their parents are touched by Post 10’s effort. “One child pulled up, and we saw that the (family) really was desperate, and they needed something,” he said. “So I gave the child a bicycle. The mother cried for about 10 minutes. We had other reactions just like that from other parents. They cried (because) the children would have at least one or two toys from Santa.”