Sometimes on Christmas, the prospect of getting gifts for the whole family can be overwhelming, and for some it’s not just because their loved ones are hard to shop for.
Lt. Joyce Curran of the Salvation Army says the reality is that there are a lot of people who are struggling locally when it comes to financing those gifts, whether that means they aren’t even able to make ends meet or they just don’t have any way to buy gifts after the bills and basic expenses are paid.
To alleviate that difficulty, the local Salvation Army is renewing its annual Angel Tree program, which uses tags on trees to channel local generosity into a gift-giving extravaganza for Finney County families in need.
This year, about 400 children 14 and younger and as many as 175 families will receive gifts through the program, if not more, according to Curran.
Applications for Angel Tree tag placement began Oct. 23 and closed Nov. 17 this year to gear up for Black Friday, but Curran said that if more than enough toys are donated, families on a waiting list would become eligible.
“If we have an abundance, I don’t want to keep toys,” she said. “I want them to go where they’re supposed to go.”
All applications are evaluated by income, but Curran says that process is “very liberal,” with a baseline at about 180 percent of the poverty level. The program also serves families encumbered by unexpected expenses, such as sudden medical bills or car repairs.
The Salvation Army puts out three tags for every child to better the chances that the tag will be picked up. According to Curran, Angel Tree tags are located at St. Catherine Hospital, Illusions Hair Salon, Menards, Western Motor, JCPenney, Trinity Lutheran Church, International Paper, the Tyson Fresh Meats plant and Holcomb High School.
Every Angel Tree tag represents a child who will benefit from the program and includes a gender and age range so donors can purchase items they find fitting of the description.
Locals can either drop their gifts off with the tag they picked up at the local Salvation Army, 216 N. Ninth St., or at the location where they found the tag.
Once the toys are situated and the distribution day kicks off, families will actually be able to shop from the selection of gifts within a restricted time frame. The purpose of that, Curran said, is to give parents the chance to pick something their children will really want.
As an example, while a donor may get a 14-year-old girl makeup, Curran said perhaps that child really wants a soccer ball.
“Parents know their child better than anybody else, and we let the parents come in and choose from the grouping of gifts for that age range and gender, so they come in and they shop and they shop for their own child,” she said.
This year, the first 150 people that come through will receive stuffed stockings. A charitable local resident provided the stockings, Curran said, adding that the Salvation Army tries to provide a small gift and a more substantial gift for each child.
Curran said she worries every year if there will be enough donations for each registered child.
“I start getting really fretful, and I start worrying because we start getting to two weeks before we start distributing gifts, not even two weeks, maybe less than that, and I start kind of panicking,” she said. “But it has always brought through enough.”
Not every tag has been picked up yet, either. About 225 have yet to be placed, so generous shoppers should remain vigilant throughout the holidays.
Days of distribution will be Dec. 18 through 20. Curran said most families will be given 15 to 20 minutes to go through the Salvation Army toy shop located at the northern end of the building. Larger families, she said, might be given as long as 30 minutes, “but we try to keep people moving fairly fast.”
For those interested in filing a late application or who want to get a head start for next year, all applicants must apply in person. The following documents need to be presented at the time of application:
• Current ID for all adults in the household. Social Security cards or a printout from the Social Security office dated within 30 days, and valid Kansas driver’s licenses or Kansas IDs.
• Proof of dependents in the home, including birth certificates and Social Security cards, or a printout from the Social Security office dated within 30 days. (Must be parent or provide proof of legal guardianship).
• Current bills, which must contain the name and address of the individual applying for assistance. Current bills include rent, mortgage, water, gas, electric, phone, cable, etc.
• Proof of income, including pay stubs, child support statements, Social Security, SSI, SSDI, unemployment/workman’s comp, etc.
Contact Mark Minton at firstname.lastname@example.org.