AUGUSTA — Joel and Kama Lyle were overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of the toys delivered Friday afternoon to the Salvation Army headquarters in Augusta.

The leaders of the Capital Region Salvation Army said more than 180 families will be able to have a nice Christmas because of the kindness and generosity of others.

Six officials from VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus unloaded a 24-foot trailer packed with toys, bicycles, diapers, clothes, educational activities and anything else a child or teenager would enjoy. Togus has been a partner with the Salvation Army in Augusta for 26 years collecting toys from the more than 1,200 VA employees.

“It’s really great to see the response when a family or company brings stuff, but to see a whole organization come together to deliver a truckload to help those in need, I’ve been in awe to see the Christmas spirit,” Joel Lyle said. “You hear a lot about how we’re a divided country, but then you see things like this, like a community coming together. It’s really heartwarming.”

Kama Lyle and a team of four others will work into the night Friday, and Saturday if necessary, to organize, sort and then bag all the board games, Legos, Tonka trucks, diapers and sporting goods in preparation for their distribution to needy families.

The Salvation Army will be distributing the bags of Christmas toys to nearly 200 local families from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday in the St. Michael School gymnasium, at 56 Sewall St. in Augusta. The Salvation Army already had partnered with St. Michael to distribute over 150 Thanksgiving baskets to community members, so Kama Lyle thought this was a perfect opportunity to team up with the school again to help those in need.

“It’s a huge door that has been opened for us, and we think it’s going to be beneficial for us and for the people coming in to get their gifts,” she said. The students at St. Michael will be participating, and Lyle said that will help the students have a better understanding and awareness of giving back to the community.

The Salvation Army’s application process started in October, and its staff spends almost two months doing due diligence to make sure people aren’t taking advantage of more than one program. Kama Lyle said the look on people’s faces when they come to get their gifts is priceless.

“We’ve already had people coming to get their gifts, and to see their reactions is truly a blessing to us, because we know they’ll be able to open up lots of gifts on Christmas,” Lyle said.

The Lyles said they and their Salvation Army family couldn’t be more thankful and grateful for the hard work and dedication of the people at Togus.

“They are thinking of everyone and everything,” Kama Lyle said. “It truly is wonderful to see one organization shopping for other families in need and doing all of this to help others.”

Lisa Newell and Glenda Robertson, of Togus, said they began collecting toys and other gifts just before Thanksgiving. Normally the drive begins the first week of December, but organizers wanted people to be able to take advantage all the Black Friday sales. Togus employees have been collecting toys for the Salvation Army for 26 years.

“It was a tremendous response from all of our clinics across Maine,” Newell said. “It’s all about the kids, and to see the response is pretty overwhelming and amazing.”

Newell said it’s refreshing to see people so willing to give to help others without wanting any credit or recognition.

“They just do it because they care,” she said.

In the past, Togus officials told their staff to donate gifts for newborns up to age 12, but recently they’ve also asked for things for teenagers, such as gift cards, movie passes and makeup; and toiletry items for children in middle or high school.

“The teenagers have sometimes been forgotten, so it’s nice to hear about the movie passes and the gift cards,” Joel Lyle said. “Those children need a good Christmas as well.”

Hundreds of people participated in the toy drive, Newell said. There were checks made out to the Salvation Army, gift cards to Barnes & Noble and basically anywhere else that doesn’t have tobacco or alcohol.

“These families are going to have a really good Christmas because of the generosity of the community,” Joel Lyle said. “Giving is really what the spirit of Christmas is all about.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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