Noah Gerding got a little choked up Tuesday as chipper Amazon employees, dressed as elves, unloaded $15,000 worth of Christmas gifts, diapers, portable cribs, coats and other supplies from a truck wrapped like a present and marched them into Minnesota's largest homeless shelter for families.
"The average age of a child staying in shelter is just 6 years old," said Gerding, development director for People Serving People in downtown Minneapolis, as he touched his heart and paused to regain his composure.
The supplies and toys donated, he said, would "provide joy to families experiencing homelessness at one of the most traumatic and uncertain times in their lives."
The elves, who work at Amazon's fulfillment center in Shakopee, then joined with Santa and Mrs. Claus to pass out toys, decorate cookies and visit with preschool-aged children in People Serving People's early childhood classes.
The delivery was the final stop on Amazon's Miles for Smiles campaign, a 33-city national philanthropy tour launched this holiday season by the online retailer.
Nationally, Amazon has given away $500,000 worth of goods and made a $50,000 donation to the nonprofit National Alliance to End Homelessness.
This is the second year that Amazon has organized a holiday philanthropy tour.
People Serving People offers 99 hotel-style units for homeless families. About 350 people stay there each night.
Amazon's gifts, combined with other donations, ensure that bags of presents and essentials including clothing, coats and diapers will be delivered to every family staying at the shelter this holiday season, said People Serving People spokeswoman Karen Kunze.