Farmington Salvation Army receives $30,000 and hundreds of toy donations for area children

Organization believes it can help 500 to 600 children this Christmas

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
Volunteer Jacqueline Palicio helps locate bags of gifts to distribute as part of the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program on Dec. 20.
  • Volunteers and members of the Salvation Army Farmington Corps Community Center were busy working on the morning of Dec. 20 on distributing gifts to children in need.
  • Salvation Army Farmington Corps Officer Lt. Christopher Rockwell told The Daily Times the organization was overwhelmed by the community's response.
  • It is estimated the organization received 500 to 600 toys, 400 to 500 pieces of clothing and approximately $30,000 in cash donations.

FARMINGTON — The community has come together to turn a setback into a victory by raising about $30,000, and donating hundreds of toys and items of clothing to the Farmington Salvation Army after its van full of toys was stolen last week.

Volunteers and members of the Salvation Army Farmington Corps Community Center were busy working on the morning of Dec. 20 distributing gifts to children in need as part of the organization's Angel Tree program.

About 20 to 25 volunteers filled the former thrift store run by the organization, shifting through bags of gifts for children to hand out to vehicles idling in the alley behind the store.

It was about a week earlier when a Toyota minivan belonging to the organization with about $6,000 of gifts was stolen from the Walmart at 4600 E. Main St. in Farmington.

Volunteer Cody Farias bags up toys for children enrolled in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program on Dec. 20.

More:APB on the Grinch: Salvation Army van full of holiday toys stolen from Walmart parking lot

The Farmington Police Department issued an arrest warrant for 37-year-old Anthony Crespin in connection with the vehicle theft.

Farmington police spokesperson Nicole Brown told The Daily Times the van has been found in Sandoval County, but the toys were gone. Brown said law enforcement officials are still searching for Crespin.

The defendant was helping a Salvation Army employee shop for the toys before allegedly stealing the vehicle.

More:Farmington police search for man accused of stealing Salvation Army van full of toys

Salvation Army Farmington Corps Officer Lt. Christopher Rockwell told The Daily Times the organization was overwhelmed by the community's response to ensure children in the area have a merry Christmas.

Volunteers Brianna Benally, left, and Brent Ray, right, prepare to distribute toys on Dec. 20 as part of the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program.

He estimated the nonprofit organization received 500 to 600 toys, 400 to 500 pieces of clothing and approximately $30,000 in cash donations.

Rockwell added that the response demonstrates that people in the community have a big heart.

“God has a way of taking tragedies and turning them into blessings,” Rockwell said. “That’s what he's done here and that people have responded amazingly.”

Rockwell said the Angel Tree program typically serves 350 area kids a year. He believes the Salvation Army could possibly help 500 to 600 children this year with the number of toys donated.

Heidi Palacio and her daughter Jacqueline Palacio were volunteering on Dec. 20, dressed as elves as they helped get bags of gifts delivered to those in need.

The former Salvation Army thrift store at 316 W. Animas St. in Farmington was used as the staging area for the nonprofit's toy distribution as part of its Angel Tree program.

Heidi told The Daily Times the van theft was a tragic event, but she was happy to see how the community responded.

“It was a tragic thing that happened, but through this, we have seen how powerful, caring and loyal the community is," she said.

The Farmington Salvation Army is devising ways to distribute the remaining gifts it has received. Rockwell shared one idea of possibly reaching out to Navajo chapter houses in the area to donate the toys, but he was still finalizing plans on Dec. 20. 

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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