You don't have to look very far to see how the ailing economy is impacting charitable giving this holiday season.
Tamaqua Salvation Army volunteers are struggling to keep up with the growing number of underprivileged families in Carbon and eastern Schuylkill county needing help over the Christmas season.
"Sadly, the need for holiday assistance this year is much higher than what we have coming in," said Major Sharon Whispell, Pastor of the Tamaqua Salvation Army. "The current economy is acting as a double-edged sword, resulting in more families being out of work or struggling financially while others are less able to donate."
As of Friday, only 121 of the 352 children registered with the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program have been fulfilled and returned to the Salvation Army. The Angel Tree program is designed to make the Christmas season brighter for children in need by providing pre-selected and affordable items to deserving children.
The trees are hung with card tags containing the name, age, gender, clothing size and special Christmas needs/wishes of an individual child. "Angels" – the donors – can select a tag and purchase new items based on the tag information. The unwrapped items, along with the tag, are then dropped off at the Tamaqua Salvation Army, 105 West Broad Street.
In addition to the Tamaqua Salvation Army, Angel Trees can be found at numerous businesses, such as the Lehighton Wal-Mart, Tamaqua Borough Hall, Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce, Alliance Medical Group in Hometown, Cal's Auto in Hometown and Helping Hand in Summit Hill.
Dina Depos, programs director for the Tamaqua Salvation Army, urges anyone with any Angel Tree cards to please return them with the items to the Tamaqua Salvation Army no later than Wednesday Dec. 21. In addition to the Angel Trees, monetary, food, clothing and toy donations (ages 0 to 14) should also be delivered by that day since the Salvation Army will begin distributing on Dec. 22.
Donors do not have to wrap the items.
"We greatly appreciate all the support and donations we've already received from so many caring individuals, organizations and businesses." said Major Margaret Johnson of the Tamaqua Salvation Army.
The Tamaqua Salvation Army is also working together with the Schuylkill Carbon Marine Corps League's Toys For Tots campaign, which is also expecting to distribute to many more families this year.
"Last year, with the help of so many caring individuals, volunteers, donators and the Schuylkill United Way, we provided food and other assistance to 731 families and 1,304 individuals living in Carbon and eastern Schuylkill county," Whispell said.
With budgets stressed, the number of needy families is much higher this year.
For more information, call the Salvation Army at (570) 668-0410. Pastor Whispell said, "You don't have to have wings to be an angel."