The Salvation Army looked after a young Jim Roberts and his family. More than 30 years later, he's back to show his gratitude

The Salvation Army's Glendale Corps has helped countless families in need over the years, and early this week, a man whose family was helped by the organization returned after more than 30 years to give back during a major holiday toy drive.

Jim Roberts, who currently lives in Castaic, grew up very poor. After living in various locations throughout Los Angeles, he and his four siblings settled in Glendale, where his family soon found the Glendale Corps on Windsor Road.

It was church every Sunday in the chapel at the Salvation Army for the Roberts family, where they would also volunteer and receive food, attend summer camps and enjoy other services. Through a state program, Roberts even worked as a janitor for the Salvation Army.

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Roberts' family would later suffer additional hardship after his mother left, eventually resulting in his father's homelessness. While Roberts stayed with friends in Bakersfield, the Glendale Corps let his father live inside his car on the facility lot until a pastor found him a small room, and later, an apartment.

"The people in charge at the time were great to us," Roberts said. "It didn't surprise me when they took my dad in."

With the organization's support, Roberts' father would eventually give his son a better life. Today, Roberts works for his own son, making emergency repairs on large trucks.

Two months ago, while taking his wife to a doctor's appointment in Encino, Roberts started to wonder if the church he used to call home in Glendale was still there.

"I was so happy when I come around the corner — and seeing the church, I thought, 'This is great,'" Roberts said.

Glendale Salvation Army manager Marlin Galvez heard Roberts' story. He told Galvez that he wanted to give back in the form of bikes, scooters and supplies to the corps' after-school program.

On Wednesday, just in time for the Salvation Army's holiday toy drive, which serves more than 450 families, Roberts combined his job tips, cash from selling aluminum cans and winnings from his wife's lottery Scratchers to purchase and donate 24 bikes.

Roberts' son also brought in 35 scooters.

"The church did so much for my family and now I'm in a position to give back," Roberts said. "It's the best feeling in the world. I wish I could do it every day. There's so many people that need help."

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Jeff Landa, jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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