Mission provides presents for families

121716...R TOY GIVEAWAY 1...WARREN...12-17-16... Jasmine Aponte of Warren loads a vehicle with bags of toys for her 5 children from the Warren Family Mission Toy Giveaway Saturday...by R. Michael Semple

WARREN — In the past, Melissa Valot of Newton Falls has volunteered for the Warren Family Mission’s toy giveaway for Christmas.

On Saturday, she was one of the ones looking for Christmas presents.

“This is the first year I’ve ever had to do anything like this,” Valot, 32, said. “My husband lost his job. We fell on hard times. Usually my daughter and I would be volunteering. This time I’m on the other side.”

It’s difficult on her earnings as a server to cover the necessities. It’s even harder to find the money for things like Christmas presents. Valot said she has a new appreciation for what the mission does.

“It brings me to tears,” she said. “I’m happy they’re able to help like this. They’re giving a lot of people Christmas.”

Dominic Mararri, director of public relations for the mission, said they expected to provide gifts for 1,500 area children on Saturday.

“We got off to a slow start,” Mararri said. “There is a big need and, thank God, everything came together with the support of the community, our donors and our volunteers. We’re thankful for the people we serve, and the smiles made it all worth it.”

Mararri said they are one of the only organizations that has items available for teenagers as well as younger children, and they coordinate with other service agencies to make sure the recipients are from Trumbull County and are not receiving gifts from other groups.

Toys and winter coats filled a room at the mission at 150 Tod Ave. NW, everything from puzzles and dolls to snowboards and “Star Wars” light sabers. Folks patiently waited for their turn to peruse the tables of donated items and fill their Christmas needs.

Samantha Woodford, 28, of Warren, was looking for gifts for her 10-year-old son. Her son told her he didn’t care if anything was under the tree, but Woodford said it mattered to her. And she didn’t know what her alternative would have been if the mission event didn’t exist.

“It’s very nice of them to do this,” she said. “I’m happy that I got to come.”

Kaitlyn Schall, 28, of Warren, said, “This is very important, especially for people who are working and who can’t make ends meet. It’s hard on a limited budget.”

“If it wasn’t for the giveaway, we’d have a really bad Christmas,” she said. “Being a single mom, it’s rough.”