Elizabeth White – like many parents living paycheck to paycheck – has had to explain to her children that even the magical Saint Nicholas has to practice some restraint.
“I told them that Santa Claus has so many kids he has to take care of, he limits it to one big thing that you really want for Christmas,” she said.
To make sure her children get more than the one present she can afford, White went to the Salvation Army Christmas Center to apply for assistance on Thursday. It’s the second time the single mother of four has gone to the non-profit for toys for her children, who range in age from 5-12. She said the kids were “ecstatic” with their donated gifts last year, which included dolls, a piano, drums and a remote controlled car.
“It was great,” she said. “It lifted a big burden around the holiday times, especially with me just getting started around here.”
The Salvation Army holds toy and clothing drives to collect the items it hands out at Christmas. Its Angel Tree program also helps low income families. Trees will be erected at Hanes Mall and other locations starting Nov. 8. The trees are covered in paper angels, each listing a child’s name, age, clothing size and gift request. Holiday shoppers are encouraged to take the angels and play Santa. Along with toys, the Salvation Army also distributes boxes of food to families during the holidays.
White was not alone in signing-up for the toy program. Families turned out in droves for the recent week-long sign up, lining up outside of the agency’s Peters Creek Parkway holiday center each morning last week. It took 50 volunteers a day to accept and process applications. The Salvation Army said 1,851 people had applied by Saturday’s deadline.
Ellen Bliven, the Salvation Army’s marketing director, said as the need for assistance has risen in recent years, the community has stepped up with donations.
“We had a large need in the community, but the community really rallied around to support us,” she said. “We’re able to help the community as much as the community helps us.”
Salvation Army Area Commander Major James Allison said many clients are in a similar situation to White’s.
“Our families who apply who are working, nearly all of them are living paycheck to paycheck,” said Allison. “…They have just barely enough to make ends meet.”
He said there are plenty of chances for the community to help. Churches and organizations can host toy drives, with the Salvation Army providing collection boxes and donation pickups. There are also volunteer opportunities for those who would like to pack food boxes.
The non-profit also partners with WGHP Fox 8 and A Cleaner World for Give a Kid a Coat. Donations of coats for children can be dropped off at any Cleaner World between Oct. 11–Nov. 16.
The Stuff a Stocking campaign will be from Nov. 7–Dec.12, when Chick-Fil-A and other businesses will offer stockings that can be picked up and stuffed with gifts for children in need.
Allison said that the Salvation Army has been helping those in need around the holidays for more than a century; he hopes the community will join in to keep that tradition going.
“My mission is to make Christmas brighter for those whose Christmas would have otherwise been very bleak,” he said. “That’s what gets me up every morning between now and Christmas Day.”
For more information about donating, call 336-723-9552.