She's a single mother living in York City with her 18-month-old baby girl.

And although Brenda Cruz is employed, she said money, at times, is tight.

That's why the 21-year-old is thankful for the extra help around Christmastime to provide her daughter, Sameliz, with presents, as well as a turkey dinner for the holiday.

This year was the first time Cruz participated in the Salvation Army's annual Christmas Cheer distribution.

Her roommate, Sandra Lopez, told her about the organization after receiving gifts and a dinner last year for her 4-year-old son.

Cruz and Lopez stood outside of the Salvation Army with smiles on their faces after they collected their goods.

Both agreed they no longer had to worry about the financial stress of Christmas presents and meals.

Hundreds helped: Hundreds of other York County residents, like Cruz and Lopez, braved the frigid temperatures Tuesday afternoon as they stood along South Duke Street waiting for their appointment to pick up children's Christmas presents and boxes of food.

The Salvation Army planned to distribute toys to 2,600 children 10 and younger from the 2,000 York County families who registered for the Tuesday and Wednesday event, said George Lenkner, director of community relations.

Tuesday alone, the Salvation Army welcomed 1,200 families, with 200 families scheduled every hour, he added.

Gifts were provided through the Toys for Tots


Program, a Marine Corps League effort; and the Salvation Army's Angel Tree, where people selected an "angel" from a tree at a store, shopping mall or their place of employment.

The angel listed the age of a boy or girl in need of Christmas toys, Lenkner said.

The food, which included 1,600 turkeys and boxes of potatoes, was purchased via the organization's kettle drive.

Lenkner said the organization's monetary goal this year from the kettle drive is $250,000; however, as of last week, funds raised are below last year's $234,000.

Smooth process: Distributing the presents and meals Tuesday went smoothly, said Lenkner, who credited the well-run process to a great group of 60 volunteers.

The gift and food pickup was like an assembly line for the families, he said.

First, the recipient gave his or her appointment slip, which included a number and family name, to a volunteer. Since the toy room had all of the packages arranged numerically, the volunteer knew where to find each particular package.

After receiving the package of gifts, the recipient moved along to the food room to pick up a turkey and food box.

Without the help of volunteers, Lenkner said the Christmas Cheer distribution wouldn't be possible.

"This (distribution) means Christmas for so many people, not just the recipients, but the volunteers, as well," he said.

"It's become part of their Christmas. If we stopped doing it, not only would the recipients be affected, but the volunteers would, too."

-- Reach Lauren Whetzel at 505-5432 or