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Location change of Salvation Army's Christmas distribution day raises concerns

Tom Magnarelli
Volunteers sort through toys for the Salvation Army's Christmas Bureau Distribution Day.

The Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Bureau Distribution Day is changing its location from the Oncenter in downtown Syracuse this year. That has raised some concerns over how low-income families will be able to get to the event.

Larry Naum is a volunteer unloading bags of toys so they can be sorted into categories based on age, gender and type.

“They’re coming in truckloads and carloads," Naum said. "I’ve never seen this many toys. Each year it becomes more and more awesome.”

The difference this year is the holiday giveaway Wednesday will not be in the heart of Syracuse but rather at the former JCPenney store at Shoppingtown Mall in DeWitt. Maj. Mark Macneer with the Salvation Army said they are expecting 2,600 families this year.

"It could be a logistical nightmare but we spent months planning and making sure the floor plan is right," Macneer said. "It's a maze right now and the families will walk through. It will be organized chaos for a while but it is coming together really nice."

Salvation Army of Syracuse Executive Director Linda Lopez said the location change was due to a scheduling conflict with the Oncenter.

“The biggest concern is making sure that the people who need it can get here," Lopez said. "Centro has stepped up, they’re doing a bus every half hour all day long.”

Bus rides from Centro’s downtown hub to the mall will be free all day Wednesday. Lopez said there are other advantages to the new location.

“Everybody can wait inside, so people won’t have to be outside in the cold,” Lopez said.

Lines would get so long at the Oncenter, they would wrap around the outside of the building. Registered families will receive toys, stocking stuffers, books, board games, puzzles, food baskets and bibles.