More than 400 families received Christmas gifts from Salvation Army's Angel Tree on Friday. As of Tuesday, more than 200 of the angels adopted out had not been returned, which left Tupelo's Salvation Army in dire need of toys for the children. The public answered in a big way.
Salvation Army Executive Director Susan Gilbert said every family approved by the Angel Tree received gifts.
"The people of Lee County really came to our rescue, as always," Gilbert said. "We were worried that we wouldn't get everything in, but we did and everyone can have a great Christmas. It is a great feeling when you know children will wake up Christmas morning with a smile on their faces. People came through with some great gifts."
A Tupelo Furniture Market building was filled with toys and other goodies for children of all ages. Dozens of bicycles for boys and girls were rolled out into vehicles, and baby dolls as far as the eye could see were piled on tables. The line of waiting parents stretched from door to door and then looped once before people started to slowly drift in.
Misty Hutcheson, 24, was one of those parents. Hutcheson, who lost her home to the Smithville tornado, was getting gifts for 3-year-old daughter Holley Muse. Despite the rain, cold weather and long lines, Hutcheson said making sure her daughter had a good Christmas was well worth the wait.
"You have all these day-to-day expenses to think about all the time that you just forget about Christmas until it's too late," she said. "So to have someone to provide help like this to struggling families is such a relief. It's a blessing. My daughter will have a great Christmas because of it."
Hutcheson and Holley were both in the home when the April tornado ripped through Smithville.
Sharon Gaston didn't lose her home in a tornado but she did lose her job in a layoff earlier this year. Gaston said since then day-to-day living has been a struggle, so Christmas was going to be next to impossible for her three children without the help of the Angel Tree.
"We are blessed to live in a community where people help one another out when they need it and that is a blessing," said Gaston. "I thank God for making sure Christmas will be good this year. Hopefully next year I can return the favor to another family."