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    Three year old Allie Chavez is happy to give donations to The Salvation Army’s Giving Tree Program. Photo by Paul Martinez.

    (SAN BERNARDINO, Calf.) It might seem like a very small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but when the local Salvation Army Corps (www.salvationarmyusa.org) and several businesses join forces to make the holiday season memorable for needy children, it makes a huge difference in so many lives.
    Known as the Giving Tree program, it revolves around actual Christmas trees, which are set up in local malls the day after Thanksgiving. Giving Tree volunteers match shoppers with the hundreds of children who are relying on The Salvation Army this year to bring them a Merry Christmas.

    José Gonzalez is a first time volunteer with The Salvation Army, and chose to help the Giving Tree Program at the Inland Center Mall this year. “It feels good to be volunteering and collecting toys for kids this Christmas,” said Gonzalez. Photo by Paul Martinez.

    José Gonzalez is a first time volunteer with The Salvation Army, and chose to help the Giving Tree Program at the Inland Center Mall this year. “It feels good to be volunteering and collecting toys for kids this Christmas,” said Gonzalez. Salvation Army volunteers make sure the presents are marked for each specific child.
    Gonzalez is also a graduate from The Salvation Army’s six month rehabilitation program. He has now entered into The Salvation Army’s Path To Prosperity Adult Rehabilitation Center, a Transitional Living program. This 18 month program is one of a kind, and assists its participants in obtaining the skills they need to become self-supporting and financially independent after battling substance abuse. “The Salvation Army has helped me get my life together,” said Gonzalez.
    Shoppers wishing to participate will find cards attached to the Giving Tree. These cards include the names and wish lists of needy children whose families cannot afford to buy gifts. Shoppers simply pluck a tag off the Giving Tree and head for the appropriate store to purchase their gift donations. Shoppers keep the card as an ornament to hang on their own Christmas tree, reminding them of their good deed.
    Larry Rangal, of Highland, donated two toys to the Giving Tree Program this year. Charity has been an ongoing tradition for Rangal since marrying his wife 20 years ago. “This is one of our little quirks. Now that our kids are grown-up and out of the house, we thought we’d provide toys for other children,” said Rangal. “It makes you feel good too.”
    Jill Grace, of Highland, was shopping with three year old Allie Chavez when she noticed the Giving Tree and decided to donate two large bags with about 10 toys. “These children are not asking for much,” said Grace. “What child asks for monopoly, especially nowadays.”
    Grace became involved with The Salvation Army during the September 11th tragedy. “I have always been a giving person, and I thought to myself ‘how can I help’,” said Grace. By volunteering with The Salvation Army, Grace was able to provide that help. “Me and my husband helped The Salvation Army serve meals to the workers at ground zero,” said Grace.
    “This is a great way to start a tradition with your own family, by selecting a gift for a needy child together. The gifts are based on their individual wishes and for some children, it may be the only gift they receive all year,” said Major Nancy Ball of the San Bernardino Corps of The Salvation Army.
    “Soccer balls, dolls and clothes are just a few items on each child’s wish list,” said Major Ball. “Shoppers who participate in the program are encouraged to shop for more than what is needed on the list. I can’t think of a better way for business owners and managers to help the community and spread the spirit of Christmas.”
    The San Bernardino Corps of The Salvation Army has a Giving Tree in the Inland Center Mall (500 Inland Center Drive, San Bernardino) near the food court. Donations are accepted until December 24th, all days except Sundays.
    The Salvation Army is looking for other business owners and managers who would like to have a tree at their place of business for employees and/or customers.
    To host a Giving Tree in San Bernardino, Colton, Grand Terrace, Rialto, Bloomington or Highland, call (909) 888-1336.
    The Riverside Salvation Army has an Angel Program to collect toys for needy kids this Christmas. Toys are collected at The Riverside Salvation Army office located at 3695 1st St., Riverside, CA 92501. To make a donation please call (951) 784-4490, Ext. 100.
    The Redlands Salvation Army has Angel Tree tags with the names and wish lists of needy children. Pick-up a tag at The Redlands Salvation Army located at 838 Alta St., Redlands, CA 92374. For more information call, (909) 792-6868.
    The Moreno Valley Salvation Army collects toy donations through its Angel Tree program. The Angel Tree is located at the Moreno Valley Mall, 22500 Town Circle Suite 1206, Moreno Valley, CA 92553. Toys are collected  until December 22nd, Monday through Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and all day on Saturday. For more information call (951) 653-9131.
    The Victor Valley Salvation Army collects toy donations at its office located at 14585 La Paz Drive, Victorville, CA 92395. To make a donation please call (760) 245-2545.
    The Ontario Salvation Army collects toys at its office located at 1412 South Euclid Ave., Ontario, CA 91762. To make a donation please call (909) 986-6748.
    About The Salvation Army San Bernardino Corps
    The Salvation Army may be able to provide emergency services including food; lodging for homeless or displaced families; clothing and furniture; assistance with rent or mortgage and transportation when funds are available. The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) assists rescue workers and evacuees in such disasters as fires.
    The Salvation Army is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church, and also offering holistic programs for people of all ages. One of the largest charitable and international service organizations in the world, The Salvation Army has been in existence since 1865 and in San Bernardino since 1887, supporting those in need without discrimination. The San Bernardino Corps of The Salvation Army serves Bloomington, Colton, Grand Terrace, Highland, Rialto, and San Bernardino. Donations may always be made online at www.salvationarmyusa.org or by calling 1-(800)-SAL-ARMY. Our local number is (909) 888-1336.

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