Salvation Army seeks donations, volunteers to meet holiday needs

jmink@macon.comNovember 23, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- No. 454 on a local Salvation Army Angel Tree is a little boy named Brian, a toddler who only wants a toy car for Christmas.

He is one of hundreds of local children whose holiday happiness depends on the generosity of strangers. The local Salvation Army is asking more people to step up this year as an increasing number of low-income families need food and gifts for their children at Christmas.

“We’re not in a panic, but we are in a tight spot,” said Capt. Pam Perry of the Salvation Army in Warner Robins. “Food is an ongoing need.”

Last week, the food pantry in Warner Robins was nearly empty. While it has been restocked thanks to some recent donations, the organization constantly needs more food.

The low food supply is the result of several factors -- one of the biggest is the increasing number of people in need. Last year, the food pantry fed an average of 45 families a month. Now about 65 families get groceries from the pantry each month, Perry said.

In Macon, the increase in need is most evident at the Salvation Army’s shelter. The shelter’s 120 beds are filled almost every night, and those who cannot get a bed sleep on the floor. On Monday night, 25 men, 15 women and more than 20 children slept on the floor of the shelter, said Peggy Steele, development director for the Salvation Army’s Central Georgia division, which includes Macon and Warner Robins.

“I think the economy has been so bad. It has drug out so long, and people were just hanging on to make it through last Christmas without needing to seek assistance,” Steele said. “But now they’re needing to seek assistance. If it continues longer, it’s going to get worse.”

The holidays can be tricky for the Salvation Army, which feeds extra people this time of year. The Macon kitchen prepares special meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas -- workers fed about 120 people Thursday -- and the organization hands out food baskets to low-income residents. Several churches and other organizations donate food for the holidays, but the Macon Salvation Army still needs donations, specifically turkeys and chickens, Steele said.

Families whose children qualify for the Angel Tree program receive food baskets, and that number has increased 15 percent to 2,000 children in Macon. The Angel Tree program encourages residents to adopt a child for Christmas, purchasing gifts and necessities for the child. In Macon, more than 1,100 children needed to be adopted as of Wednesday.

In Warner Robins, more than 400 children qualified for the Angel Tree program, and 200 had been adopted as of Wednesday. As for its Christmas food baskets, schools and other organizations are holding food drives, but more donations are needed, especially flour and sugar, Perry said.

Additionally, both the Warner Robins and Macon organizations need volunteers to ring bells during their Red Kettle campaigns, which collect monetary donations from the public.

“The Salvation Army cannot do anything it does without the community,” Perry said.

To make a donation or volunteer at the Macon or Warner Robins Salvation Army, call 746-8572. Angel trees are located at the Macon Mall and at Gena Jayne The Chic Boutique, Lowe Toyota and State Bank & Trust in Warner Robins.

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