Reimagined Sheetz Holiday Party Returns in Hazelton

Dec 13, 2020

For The Salvation Army and Sheetz for the Kidz the holiday show must go on – even if that means a gift grab-and-go instead of a traditional holiday party.

The Salvation Army of Hazelton has partnered with Sheetz for two decades to identify children in need and then throw them an in-person holiday party around Christmastime. The party, hosted by Sheetz, included food, games, desserts, a visit from Santa, and Christmas gifts from their submitted wish lists. This year, however, Sheetz and The Salvation Army pivoted to a drive-through distribution due to the pandemic. As 32 cars drove by the Hazelton corps’ headquarters on Dec. 12, Sheetz employees used social distancing to safely place gift bags filled with toys into their trunks.

And a subtler, heartfelt touch was also added to the program this year. By request of Sheetz for the Kidz, The Salvation Army of Hazelton selected a child with special needs to join the “party” and receive $100 in gifts.

“I found the perfect family,” said Lt. Stephanie Morales, Corps Officer for The Salvation Army of Hazelton. “The mother is single with four children and one of her kids has special needs. She has been asking for help from us now for three years.  I’ve always seen her come in. I’ve always seen the need. So I reached out to her this year, and she was just so excited and so thankful.”

“What [The Salvation Army] has meant to our lives, and even what they have done aside from intentionally, is just amazing,” said the mother, whose autistic child was selected by Lt. Morales for the holiday party program. “God has really used them in our lives.”

The mother, whose name is undisclosed, lives in Carbon County with her children and typically shops for them in a dollar store around Christmastime. She was unware of Sheetz’s holiday party program until being approached by Lt. Morales this year after registering for COVID-19 assistance. Then, she sent in a wish list for her five-year-old son.

One of the items on her wish list is a sensory blanket to help her child manage anxiety issues that comes with his autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, and other conditions.

This isn’t the first time the Carbon County woman has had a positive interaction with The Salvation Army. She recalled receiving a Swarovski crystal bracelet with the moon on it from The Salvation Army in 2017, a month after her friend and mentor, who lived in Nebraska, had died. 

“I had not even told anyone at The Salvation Army,” the mother said. “No one knew. It was just amazing how God has used them in our lives, even in ways they could not have known.”

Lt. Morales thanked Sheetz for continuing the holiday party tradition despite the pandemic, allowing her to reach out to families who are especially struggling, like the family in Carbon County.

“We were actually really worried that [Sheetz] was going to completely cancel this event,” she said. “But we are just so excited that they pulled through and made it happen. It makes us happy.”

And now, thanks to Sheetz and The Salvation Army, a child in Carbon County with special needs can join other children in experiencing the thrill of opening a present on Christmas Day.

 “The program has really made a big difference for our Christmas,” said the mother.

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