Lieutenant Chaka Watch greeted guests, helped load their carts and even danced in front of the Christmas tree as 250 families and individuals received Red Boxes filled with nonperishable food and clothing at The Salvation Army’s Harlem Temple on December 20th. Guests also received Perdue chickens and bags of toys for their children and grandchildren.

“This is where we are making a difference in people’s lives,” Lieutenant Chaka said. “The Bible says, don’t preach the gospel if people are hungry. Feed them first.”

On this day, the feeding also included a little reception with chocolate chip cookies, coffee and tea that Lieutenant Chaka and his wife, Lieutenant Emeline Watch, had provided for their guests.

“We’re speaking to the people through our actions,” Lieutenant Chaka said. “They’re coming into an environment where they feel loved and appreciated. They are a part of us and our community. Army officers are not sent to buildings. We’re sent to people.”

Assisting with the distribution and offering their warmth and cheer were Lieutenant Grace Cho, Envoy Ken Burton and Cadets Peranda Fils-Aime and Olguens Fils-Aime, as well as volunteers from Gap, Inc.

The festive giving was enhanced by Christmas carols played by Kenon Ward, an instructor for The Salvation Army’s Phil Ramone Orchestra, who played on a keyboard set up in the gym, which had been decorated with a large, brightly lit tree, a wreath and the Red Boxes piled high on either side.

The efforts were much appreciated.

“It means I can help my grandchildren. I love them to death,” said Evangeline, who was enjoying the carols and conversation while she waited. “It’s a blessing to get a turkey for the kids.”

Desiree echoed that gratitude.

“I’m very thankful for the things they give us. I don’t know where we’d be without The Salvation Army.”

While the Red Boxes of food are distributed during the holidays, the Red Box Campaign continues throughout the year, supporting the vast network of programs and services The Salvation Army provides to boys, girls, men and women. To learn more or to make a contribution, please contact Sharon Smith-Ibello at (212) 337-7345 or

By Retta Blaney