Deborah Allard, Herald News Staff Reporter

FALL RIVER -- At 7 a.m., Henry Teixeira put on his Santa hat and balanced himself on his walker at the back of the line at the annual Citizens for Citizens Inc. free toy pick-up.

Folks began lining up at 3:30 a.m. Saturday for the annual event, which will provide toys to some 3,000 needy children this Christmas.

By 9 a.m., the starting time for the Operation Christmas program, the line extended more than a block past CFC s Griffin Street location.

"We really appreciate it," said Teixeira, who had switched from the walker to a cane as he edged closer to the entrance. He was picking up toys for his four grandchildren. "Things are tough. Gas is up. The economy is bad."

People stood shivering, drinking coffee, pushing strollers. It continued for the better part of the morning. Though the air was brisk, conversation was jovial. Strangers spoke to each other about their children, about work or the lack of work, and about the hardships of the holiday season.

"This is my second year coming here," said Melissa Dias, a mother of four.

Dias said she recently lost her job after taking time off to care for her son, who was sick with pneumonia. "For a single mom, oh yeah, it s tough."

Besides free toys, CFC also provides needy folks with food, help with utility costs and various other outreach activities.

Barbara Travis, CFC s Operation Christmas coordinator, said the program collected $30,000 during its annual telethon and auction earlier this month to purchase the toys. Donations came in from local people, businesses and various organizations, including a $3,000 check from the rock group Boston.

"The involvement in this program is widespread," said Travis, who has been organizing Operation Christmas for 30 of its 34 years.

Parents on Saturday each received two major toys for each child to age 12, along with stocking stuffers, hats and mittens.

Last year, Operation Christmas served some 4,000 kids. "We can never tell from year to year," said Travis.

From August through November, parents in need of free toys for their children filed an application with CFC for help.

"It works because of the people who come in, and the volunteers," said Travis.

Hundreds of volunteers pull off the annual toy giveaway. Some were prior program participants. Travis said it s not unusual to receive donations from those who have themselves gotten help in the past.

Carolyn Reed, a retired CFC employee and the first black administrative assistant for its community action program, was there Saturday helping out.

"Once you get a taste of it, you can t stop," said Reed, who had recruited her great-grandson and his friend to help. "It s infectious."


The Herald News Holiday Fund is currently collecting donations, which will be split ebony porn equally between CFC and the Salvation Army. To make a donation, drop off or send to The Herald News, 207 Pocasset St., Fall River, MA 02722.

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