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Angel Trees bloom with Christmas gifts for Fox Valley families in need

Volunteer Saul Apolinar carries out bag gifts for needy during annual Angel Tree gift distributiSalvatiArmy AurorIll. Wednesday Dec. 21 2011.

Volunteer Saul Apolinar carries out a bag of gifts for the needy during the annual Angel Tree gift distribution at the Salvation Army in Aurora, Ill., on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011. | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 24, 2012 8:09AM

AURORA — It will be a real Christmas for hundreds of little angels in the Fox Valley, whose wish lists were granted from the gift-giving Angel Trees placed in business lobbies throughout the area.

“My baby will have a nice Christmas,” said Lytronda Shamley, a mother of a 10-month-old girl and eight months pregnant with her second child.

“Having no money this time of year is difficult,” she said.

On Wednesday, the sanctuary of the Aurora Salvation Army’s Corps headquarters on East Galena Boulevard was packed with red bags filled with toys ready for distribution, thanks to the generosity of guardian angels involved in the annual Angel Tree program.

The trees listing Christmas gift wishes were set up at corporate offices, at grocers and other businesses, and even online through

About 700 pre-qualified families in need registered this year. About 80 people arrived by the hour to pick up gifts of toys for children of all ages.

“I thank God for the gifts I could not get for my children,” said Carolette Pegues, a mother of two children ages 6 and 11.

“This is my first time having to come. I am unable to work because of illness,” Pegues said.

The expressions of gratitude and appreciation from the recipients were the same, even though their circumstances were different.

“We receive notes from families worried about how they were going to explain to their children that there would not be any gifts this Christmas,” said Salvation Army Captain Antonio Romero.

“It’s good to see people walk away with a sense of relief knowing they are not forgotten.”

Romero said dolls and fire trucks seem to be at the top of the wish lists of young children and video games for the teens. He said individuals, school children and corporations have been generous in both giving and volunteering.

“This will be in many cases the only gifts the children will receive,” Romero said.

“Christmas is a special day — I wanted to see a smile on my son’s face,” said Susana Alvarez, whose 9-year-old son likes all kinds of toys.

The single mother said she has seasonal work in the summer as a packer for a moving company but the hours taper off in the colder months.

“One day a week of work this time of year isn’t enough to pay the bills, but I am happy,” the mother said, lifting the red bag filled with gifts.

“I have five kids, and we’re kind of broke this year,” said Miriam Luna. “This will help,”

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