CRESTVIEW — Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida this week ensured there will be gifts under the tree for children in lower income households as it brought its annual toy distribution to Crestview for the first time.


CRESTVIEW — Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida this week ensured there will be gifts under the tree for children in lower income households.



“It is nice,” Gabriella Hendricks, a mother of two, said Wednesday as she accepted a large sack of toys from Jennifer Garraty-Hargett and Courtney Baker. “The kids are going to have nice presents.”



Parishioners at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Crestview participated in the toy giveaway program for the first time this year, Baker said.



“Many of the gift requests were on their angel tree, so they’re definitely having an impact on our community,” Baker, a Crestview resident, said. Angel trees are Christmas trees decorated with paper ornaments, often in the shape of angels, inscribed with gift wishes. Presents benefit kids represented by the charitable organization sponsoring the tree.



This is the first time the charity has brought its Christmas toy distribution to Crestview and neighboring DeFuniak Springs, Baker said.



“Many of our clients don’t have cars and can’t drive down to Fort Walton (Beach) to pick up their bags,” she said, referring to the charity’s base office. “It’s awkward for them to carry the big bags on a bus.”



Area churches, businesses and individual donors gave gifts. An unnamed Destin donor gave 40 $150 gift cards, Baker said.



“That was awesome and unexpected,” she said, adding that families with teens receive the gift cards. “A lot of times the teenagers get left out.”



“They see the little ones opening their Legos and dolls but they don’t have anything,” Garraty-Hargett said. “This way, they can shop for whatever they want.”



At Wednesday’s toy distribution, 15 Crestview area families, representing 35 children, received sacks of toys.



Christy McGovern, a mother of three, expressed gratitude.



“Most definitely, the kids will be excited when they see this under the tree,” she said. “Right now, there isn’t anything under the tree.”



The organization is expanding its services farther into Okaloosa County’s north end, Catholic Charities communications director Kelly Humphrey said.



A mobile meal kitchen that would serve food in Laurel Hill is one planned project awaiting funding, she said.