Virginia native Adam Armstrong who grew up in poverty in Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley returned back with a 26-foot truck packed with $12,000 worth of toys.
Armstrong donated bikes, balls and remote-control cars to local people living in Harris Gardens Apartments, which is a a low-income, Section 8 complex in Harrisonburg where he once lived.
“You see these kids and you hand them a baby doll, or a Nerf gun, a bicycle, two little boys throwing a football and you can’t put a price on the feeling that gives you,” Armstrong said. “I consider myself very blessed.”
After giving away toys at Harris Gardens, Armstrong wearing a Santa hat, distributed toys at three other low-income developments before donating the remaining ones to the Salvation Army. “I remember Harrisonburg being a friendly small town,” about 130 miles southwest of the nation’s capital, Armstrong said. “I remember government housing and a lot of poverty, crimes, drugs, violence and things of that nature. Every time I see kids, I know it’s not their fault where they are.”
Harris Gardens property manager Sara Lewis-Weeks was just finishing lunch, when Armstrong, 35, strolled into her office. “He comes in and says, `What are you doing on Saturday? I’d like give away a lot of toys’ and I’m like, `Yeaaah, I don’t know about that,’ ” Lewis-Weeks recounted. ‘I’m very skeptical at that point.”
After she established Armstrong’s identity and that he was quite wealthy after making successful career in selling vacation properties, she made flyers for kids in the complex to show up Saturday morning for a toy giveaway. She thought that he would turn up with a small amount of toys.
“It wasn’t like stuffed animals, he was giving away bikes, remote-controlled cars, real Barbie dolls, not Dollar Store Barbie dolls,” Weeks recalled. “He didn’t miss anybody. His heart was truly in this.” It was really like an “Oprah for little kids,” she said, referencing “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2004, when Oprah gave away cars to an entire studio audience.
“They thought it was going to be a couple of stuffed animals, not, ‘And you get a bike, and you get a bike, and you get a bike,’ like an ‘Oprah’ for little kids,” Lewis-Weeks said.
Armstrong, who lives in nearby Penn Laird, Virginia, said he was three months in jail as a young man because he was caught distributing marijuana. He recalled seeing endless streams of inmates greeting each other like old friends, from other stints behind bars.
“It was like, `Hey I remember seeing you at such and such,’ and I said to myself, ‘This is nuts, I can’t do this,’ ” he said. “I made a choice that I was not going to live like that.”
Armstrong said he’s been doing Christmas giveaways since December 2013. This story has blown us away with the kindness and compassion that God filled in Armstrong’s heart for the poor and downtrodden people in society. May we also be inspired by this act of kindness and spread love and joy with the less fortunate in our community.