A man who grew up living in poverty gave back to the community by handing out a truckload of toys in the low-income area where he spent his growing years.
Adam Armstrong, 35, grew up in the town of Harrisonburg in Shenandoah Valley. He remembers growing up poor, and now that he’s doing a lot better in life, he decided to give some children an early Christmas by gifting them with toys.
Coming in a 26-foot truck, Adam set foot once again in Harrisonburg to distribute $12,000 worth of toys to kids in the neighborhood. He started in Harris Gardens Apartments – a low-income, Section 8 complex in Harrisonburg where he spent his childhood. Donning a Santa hat, Adam gave away bikes, balls, and remote-control cars, among others, to the young residents living in the complex.
“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,” Adam told NBC News. “I consider myself very blessed.”
After giving away toys to the kids in Harris Gardens, the philanthropic man went on to distribute in three other, low-income areas nearby. He still had some gifts left by the end of the day which he donated to the Salvation Army.
“I remember Harrisonburg being a friendly small town,” Adam 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.”
The week before, Adam made sure to drop by the office of the property manager, Sara Lewis-Weeks, to inform her of his plan.
“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,'” Sara recalled. “I’m very skeptical at that point.”
Before agreeing, Sara made sure to confirm Adam’s identity first. She learned that he has made a good living selling vacation properties. She then produced flyers inviting the kids to show up on Saturday for a toy giveaway. That time, Sara didn’t expect much from Adam’s gifts.
“It wasn’t like stuffed animals, he was giving away bikes, remote-controlled cars, real Barbie dolls, not Dollar Store Barbie dolls,” Sara said. “He didn’t miss anybody. His heart was truly in this.”
“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,” she added.
Adam has had his share of dark times in his life. At age 18, he was jailed for selling marijuana. There, he remembered seeing inmates greeting each other like they were old friends. Witnessing this struck a chord within him and made him realize that he didn’t want his future to look like that.
“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.”
Adam is glad that he was able to rise from that dark phase in his life, and through the years, he has made it his mission to give back to the community. He has been doing Christmas giveaways since 2013, but this year’s is his biggest one yet.
Watch the video below from WHSV TV 3 to see Adam spreading the holiday cheer in his old neighborhood.