The Salvation Army of Grayson County helped spread a little holiday cheer Tuesday, handing out thousands of presents to the area’s less-fortunate families as part of its annual Angel Tree program.

Agency employees and volunteers filled the Salvation Army’s distribution center on Armstrong Avenue in Denison, where they greeted recipients and shuttled shopping carts full of toys and holiday essentials to their cars. Organizers estimated some 5,000 toys and gifts were distributed during the event.

“We helped over 300 families and that comes out just under 1,000 children,” Salvation Army of Grayson County Major Andrea Ellis said.

The Salvation Army began its Angel Tree program in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1979 as a way for holiday shoppers to help the struggling members of their own communities. The program invites in-need families to apply through the agency’s Social Services department, which then reviews the children’s profiles and wish lists. An angel is then created for the child and placed on a Christmas tree, usually at a mall or busy store. Shoppers then choose an angel, purchase the listed items and return them to the tree.

“We took applications back in October for families that need help with their Christmas for their children,” Ellis said. “They go through the screening process and then, in November, we started finding sponsors for each of those children. Their gifts eventually come in and it takes us right up until about this point to get it all ready to be handed out.”

In addition to gifts and clothing for the children, Ellis said the Salvation Army of Grayson County also handed out holiday meal kits with food collected during the annual Bob Skaggs Food Drive and donated by sponsors. Ellis described the Angel Tree gift distribution as a top priority of the Salvation Army and a means of making life easier on struggling families.

“Depending on the economy, it fluctuates, but right now the level of need in Grayson County is very great,” Ellis said. “We have families that struggle with finding and securing jobs, maintaining their own housing, putting food on the table and so on. Sadly, Christmas and things like this tend to take a back seat to those needs. So, this is our way of stepping in and giving these families a hand.”

Tiffany White was on the receiving end of the Angel Tree program.

“It’s really great to have someone out their thinking about the people that don’t have enough to make ends meet,” White said. “These people are making sure that someone else’s kids actually have a nice Christmas.”

Despite some delays caused by rain, Ellis said she felt this year’s distribution was success and one made possible with the help of volunteers, sponsors and the community.

“It takes an army to pull off something like this,” Ellis said. “I mean, we’re called the Salvation Army for a reason and that’s because a lot the work we do requires a lot of people to work together in order to accomplish it.”