Pandemic doesn’t dampen mission of Salvation Army this season

Mike Rivera, among eight Delaware Department of Transportation employees who were volunteering Monday for The Salvation Army distribution event in Seaford, loads a child’s bicycle into a vehicle. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

SEAFORD — The Salvation Army’s annual holiday tradition was staged in Seaford on Monday, aimed at bringing the reason for the season and joy to several hundred needy families.

Helping hands from area colleges, Delaware’s Department of Transportation and other groups comprised the volunteer army for the toy and food pickup at The Salvation Army’s Seaford Sussex Chapel.

Every year, The Salvation Army addresses need around the holidays, but 2020 was an even greater challenge given the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are just hoping that they can remember that they are not alone, especially in 2020, that there is a community behind them and that God is behind them, and we can help each other,” said Lt. Miguel Alban Guerrero, co-leader of the Seaford Sussex Chapel with his wife, Lt. Kathryn Alban Guerrero.

Volunteers joined TSA staff by matching toys, bicycles, turkeys and food boxes against a checklist.

“I just came here to do good things,” said Alvaro Buenano of Seaford, a 21-year-old student at the University of Delaware. “I’m back from winter break from college and spending time with my family. My dad knows Miguel, and the opportunity presented itself, so I figured why not get up early and lend helping hands?”

It was the same for his younger brother, Sebastian Buenano.

“I’m here because I want (to) give. In life, the more you give, the more (you) receive,” said Sebastian, 20, a sophomore at Virginia Tech majoring in mechanical engineering. “In these times, everything seems all doom and gloom, and this is just another way for me (to) brighten up my day and brighten up someone else’s day that needs this.”

Volunteer Sebastian Buenano of Seaford matches a family with a bag of toys during The Salvation Army Seaford Sussex Chapel’s toy and food distribution Monday. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

The spacious hall at TSA’s chapel on Sussex Highway was filled to the brim with bags of toys for about 460 children — 530 counting those on a waiting list that had been expedited by a generous donor.

“Each child will give us a wish list, and we try to package the bag according to what the child wants,” said Ms. Alban Guerrero. “Each of our families will get a turkey, gifts for their kids and a food box. Turkeys are from ACME, toys have been sponsored by different donors in the community, and then, the food is from the Food Bank (of Delaware).

“ACME supermarket donated 300 turkeys. And they are not small turkeys,” said Mr. Alban Guerrero.

Many children’s gifts came from good Samaritans through the Angel Tree program based at Walmart stores and other retailers.

“People trust us, and people know that we will do what we say we will do with the toys. There were also monetary donations,” said Mr. Alban Guerrero, noting increased need this year.

“We have a caseworker who works with families throughout the year,” he added. “The number increased by over 100-plus kids with toys. It has been a different season. It seems so many people that didn’t need help before are now coming to us. But that is what we are here for. We are here to just lift people up for that moment, hoping and knowing that they will get back on their feet.”

TSA’s hope is that recipients will let the Lord into their hearts, if he is not already there, Mr. Alban Guerrero said.

“If there is one family that decides to follow you and have a relationship with you, Lord, throughout this entire event, then, it is all worth it, Father,” he said.