It's around ten in the morning...and it's cold. But that's not stopping Robert Estrada from smiling at each person who walks into this Houston Wal-Mart. Some smile or say hi, but most just walk into the store like he's not even there. But over all Robert says he is getting money.
"We're getting many, many dollars from the people."
It's not just money the Salvation Army needs. They give out truck loads of toys to needy families every Christmas. But this year there was this thing called Hurricane Ike. A hurricane plus a sour economy equals less donations. Juan Alanis works for the Salvation Army and explains how bad the situation is.
"Usually by this time of year, we have that facility pretty full with donations and toys and this year we're running pretty low on toys that have been donated so far."
Since no one is giving a bailout to Houstonians, Alanis believes this year's donation could fall short.
"You've got so many people who need more help, and at the same time you've got a lot of people that can't help anymore.Î¾Î¾They're not in a position to help like they were in the past."
Inside the Wal-Mart you'd never know there was a hurricane or a sluggish economy...baskets are full with toys and televisions and all the registers are constantly ringing. But 25-thousand needy families have already pre-registered to receive toys..and if people don't donate, those children may not get anything. Alanis says by donating, you're making sure Santa stops by another home.
"If you're a five year old kid, you think Santa Claus brought it to you you think it was a gift from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and you never have to know that your parents came to the Salvation Army to get your toys for you."
(sound of ringing bells)
Bill Stamps,Î¾KUHF Houston Public Radio News.