Salvation Army volunteers recall how Cal Expo Christmas toy giveaway helped their family

Food is loaded into a participant’s vehicle during the Salvation Army’s annual food and toy giveaway Monday at Cal Expo.
Food is loaded into a participant’s vehicle during the Salvation Army’s annual food and toy giveaway Monday at Cal Expo. Sacramento Bee

At the Salvation Army’s annual food and toy distribution for Sacramento’s people in need Monday were a mother and daughter who knew what it means to receive and to give.

With more than 2,000 families expected to receive toys and boxes of food at Cal Expo, about 200 volunteers loaded the goods into vans, trucks and cars, eventually distributing more than 9,000 toys. Among the volunteers were Emma Casebolt and Taylor Barrett.

Casebolt’s children years ago were the beneficiary of Christmas toys from the Salvation Army. On Monday she and her daughter were making sure people who needed toys for their children received them.

Casebolt and Barrett know how much that can mean. When Casebolt was a single mother with two young children living in a one-bedroom apartment, she had little money.

On food stamps and a working minimum-wage job while going to college to better herself, the young mother reached out to the Salvation Army at Christmas. After rent, food and books, there was very little left for the holiday.

“I told myself if I ever had a chance to give back, I will,” she said. Eventually, family finances improved with a new job -- and she and her daughter began volunteering at the toy distribution.

“This is our 11th year volunteering,” said Casebolt. “We can remember being one of these families. When you do better, you can give back.”

Casebolt told her daughter to never forget that the family more than once called upon the Salvation Army at Christmastime and the Christian charity came through. Barrett, now 20, has heeded her mother’s words.

“Accepting the toys is not something that you want to do, but it is something you have to do when you have nothing,” Barrett said. “We looked for help, and Salvation Army was there.”

Each time they volunteer, Casebolt and Barrett said, they leave with a warm feeling.

“I feel great because you see so many smiles,” said Rio Linda resident Barrett. “Once done, I feel so happy.”

On Monday, each family received a toy and stocking stuffers for each child. Items given to families included bicycles, stuffed animals, dolls, tea sets, scooters, building blocks and books.

The Salvation Army’s Major Bill Dickinson said donors “have been very generous this year.” He thanked the many volunteers, including Barrett and Casebolt.

“It will be a wonderful and merry Christmas for many,” he said.

Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.