MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This holiday season, WCCO is featuring different non-profits helping Minnesotans in need during our Trees of Hope campaign.

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This week we are spotlighting the Salvation Army and their Toy Shop program. The shops provide gifts to thousands of children around the metro that would otherwise go without.

Now, that organization needs your help to make sure nearly 25,000 children have a gift under the tree this Christmas.

The Salvation Army Toy Shop is not Santa’s workshop, but its pretty close. It is the largest provider of Christmas toys in the metro area.

Barbies, Spiderman, a new bike – you name it – fill the shop.

Last year they gave 116,000 brand new toys to families who needed some help, and this year they may give even more.

The Toy Shop opened its doors to parents Tuesday morning. It was a great day for parents, who arrived at the Toy Shop empty-handed but left looking more like Santa Claus, with big red bags filled with toys.

The way it works is, people who have applied for the program show up at an area shop, like the one at Woodlands Church in St. Paul, and choose about five gits per child from a wide selection.

Parents or guardians can shop by age group, gender and leave without paying anything.

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It’s all because of donations that The Salvation Army can help people like William Paul.

He’s a single father working two jobs for his two toddlers.

“When you actually get help that you weren’t expecting, it doesn’t seem real and you just have to embrace it because you never know when it’s gonna come back around,” Paul said.

One mother WCCO spoke with called it a true blessing because, if not for the Salvation Army, she wouldn’t be able to give her daughters a merry Christmas.

The Salvation Army buys a lot of their toys from wholesale providers. They can get a toy valued at $28 for just $8. They also team up with Toys For Tots and rely on donations from the community.

Paul applied a while back, but next week on Dec. 23 anyone can show up to the Toy Shop at University of Northwestern in Roseville between 9 a.m. and noon.

To get toys, you do need to show ID, and some type of proof that you have kids, a doctor’s bill or ID card will work.

If you would like to help out the Salvation Army in providing children across the metro with toys and games for the holidays, click here to donate.

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Aside from the holiday Toy Shop, the Salvation Army helps those in need all year long by providing basic needs, housing, youth programs and much more. Those who give $25 or more on Tuesday will receive a certificate for a special Trees of Hope holiday ornament that you can pick up at Hom Furniture.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield