People come year after year for the Salvation Army's Christmas hampers. The bags, heavy with goods, burst before people reach their rides. This year, gratitude was the common denominator in the expressions of those who lined up on Tuesday morning at the Henry Street, Port of Spain, centre for their hampers.
The hampers included staples, like flour, rice, sugar and salt, cereals, canned goods and a large bottle of soda.
Major Chris Matthias, who was recently appointed to the helm of the society, said 1,500 hampers would be delivered during the Christmas period. He said besides Henry Street, donation drives would be held on Charlotte Street, in Tunapuna, Sangre Grande, San Fernando and Tobago.
Matthias said the hampers were worth, on average, $250 each. He said 320 were distributed on Tuesday, but by the end of the week, he expects that 530 would be gifted.
Matthias said donations from the public at the Salvation Army's famous red kettles provide 40 per cent of funding for the drive while corporate donors contribute the remaining 60 per cent.
Asked how people become aware of the Salvation Army's drives, he said, "Interestingly enough, persons know Salvation Army does Christmas distributions each year. They position themselves to be there. Sometimes, from October, persons are calling the office to find out if we've begun registration as yet.
"We don't begin registration until November, or so."
He said the Salvation Army focuses on shut-ins, people with many children and single parents so it tries to reach out to them.
Asked if Salvation Army found the most vulnerable in society, Matthias said, "We try to do that, but we would not kid ourselves that we are perhaps reaching 100 per cent of them. We want to believe we're reaching quite a bit of them. That's the aim."
The widow of former president Noor Hassanali, Zalayhar Hassanali, was also present.
She said, "So long I've been here, I can't even remember how long.
"I come out every Christmas. I got to know a lot of them. A lot of them come year after year so we see them all the time. Some of them call me by my name.
"You see the need. You see the line and you see the need. People really need a lot of help. So the Salvation Army comes to their rescue and helps them every year, which is such a wonderful thing."
Hassanali said she does 101 things a year.
"We're dealing with floods, we're dealing with fire, we're dealing with landslides and I'm with United Way – I can't retire. We just had a dinner for all the cancer survivors. All kind of things going on, especially at this time of year.
"I am having the time of my life trying to juggle and trying to fit everything in. This is a very full week for me."
Asked how the Salvation Army drive affects her, Agnes Bobb-Sutherland said, "It didn't affect me, nuh. But it made me feel great, getting one."
Bobb-Sutherland, from Barataria, arrived at the Salvation Army at 9.30 and by 10.30 she was going home with a hamper.
"I am thankful. Normally, I always come and it makes a difference every Christmas."
Another recipient, Yvette Babb-Lewis, said, "I have a mentally challenged son. It means a lot to him. He cannot talk. I does do everything for him. He is 35. It goes a long way."
Tuesday was the second time Babb-Lewis needed the Salvation Army's help.
She asked, "Newsday doh help people?"
One of the contributors at Tuesday's hamper drive was construction company Coosal's.
Addressing the recipients, Rajiv Coosal said, "It is our greatest hope the takeaway today is not only a hamper filled with the basic needs.
"But, as we try to we try to engage all stakeholders regarding this initiative, we understand and appreciate each person may have a sensitive, deep and intimate experience which brought you here today.
"As we continue to navigate in less-than-ideal conditions, we are rooted in the fact, it will get better. Maybe not today, or even next week, but with faith, trust, hope and action, you can realise the desired change."