Needy Families Hand Select Free Christmas Gifts & Groceries

Dec 2, 2016 | by Sally Robb Haims

The Salvation Army’s “Toy & Joy Shop,” providing toys, gifts and grocery bags to over 1,350 low-income families in San Francisco (approximately 3,000 children). Over 1,350 pre-registered* families will get to “shop” (for FREE) for their children – aged newborn to 16 years old – for several gifts and “stocking stuffer” items at The Salvation Army’s “Toy & Joy Shop” in San Francisco. The Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in the Tenderloin neighborhood is transformed into a toy shop for this two-day event. The pre-registered* parents arrive at a designated time and are assisted by a “personal shopper” to choose their Christmas gifts. The idea is to give parents the opportunity to select gifts in a more private setting, respecting the family’s dignity and minimizing the “hand-out” charity feeling. In addition to gifts, each family will receive a gift card from Safeway.

Thousands of low-income parents; over 300 volunteer “personal shoppers;” Salvation Army officers and staff.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16 – 9:00am to 3:30pm
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17 – 9:00am to 1:00pm

The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center
240 Turk St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Additional Info
To help provide parents with a “retail-like” experience, the Toy & Joy shop has been divided into different “departments” according to age, ensuring that parents can select age-appropriate gifts for their children. What sets The Salvation Army’s Toy & Joy Shop apart from other efforts is that it’s the only toy distribution to serve children between the age of 13 and 16 (other popular toy distributions only serve kids through 12 years old.) Since most teens do not want a teddy bear or Barbie Doll, a “teen department” has been stocked with electronics, cosmetics, sports equipment, gift cards, and other items often wished for by teens. The Salvation Army believes that many low-income children have the same gift wishes and desires as their peers who come from more privileged situations.  

Photo Ops & Interviews

  • Salvation Army’s Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center transformed into a giant “toy store” setting, with different departments for each age group and shelf-after-shelf of toy options for parents.
  • Volunteer “personal shoppers,” fetching gifts and providing an experience for parents that – as much as possible – feels just like retail.
  • Parents selecting gifts in a private setting that aims to preserve their dignity and be more helpful than just a “hand-out” –like distribution.
  • Interview Opportunities:
    • Salvation Army Toy & Joy Shop administrators
    • Volunteer “Personal Shoppers” (individuals or groups representing local businesses, churches or non-profit orgs.)
    • Low-income parents shopping for their children (as willing)

* PLEASE NOTE:  All participating families have pre-registered through a Salvation Army case worker. Unfortunately, due to an increase in participating families this year (including a long waiting list), The Salvation Army cannot accept any unregistered / walk-in families or parents this year.

About The Salvation Army
Since 1883, The Salvation Army has been serving the San Francisco Bay Area, offering practical support, spiritual comfort and a critical safety net to people in crisis without discrimination. The Army has 16 primary facilities throughout San Francisco, providing a myriad of services, including youth programs, meal delivery, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, transitional housing, and nutritional and housing support for seniors.  For more information, visit  

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