By Madisen Keavy

ARDEN (CBS13) — A steady line of cars rolled through Cal Expo on Wednesday as families picked up Christmas toys, food, and Christmas trees as part of the Salvation Army of Sacramento’s Mega Christmas Distribution event.

More than 2,000 families registered ahead of the event for items children in the household would like, as part of the Salvation Army’s holiday assistance program. The event Wednesday ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the event organizer said volunteers served 400 families per hour.

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Cal Expo was organized by order and household. When families pulled up they shared a specific ticket that linked them to their gifts inside. A volunteer would run the gifts to the car and from there, families would be able to pick-up food for the next two weeks. The food was donated and a supplement while students were out of school on holiday break.

Event organizers with the Salvation Army of Sacramento and Toys for Tots agreed the event wouldn’t work without the support of volunteers. In 2020, it was more difficult to find volunteers, and while it still is a challenge, the 2021 holiday season showed improvements.

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“We’ve seen an increase in volunteers, an increase in donations, as well as an increase in need. I think that says everyone is getting back out,” said 1st Sgt. Brian Zeifang.

The Christmas event was not just to support families with gifts and food, but their well-being, too. Volunteers stood by cars and checked-in with families while they waited for their deliveries.

“We want to ensure that the families that are receiving Christmas and toys are also doing well with everything that is going on,” said Major John Brackenbury with the Salvation Army.

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The Salvation Army collects donations online to support holiday assistance and programs year-round. The nonprofit set up a Virtual Red Kettle which allows people to donate online.