Salvation Army gearing up for busy holiday season

11 years ago

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer
    HOULTON — Residents in need of assistance from the Salvation Army this winter are being asked to submit applications to the charitable organization by Wednesday, Dec. 11. Included in this deadline are those families who qualify for help with Christmas presents during the holiday season.

    Damon and Phyllis Hayward, envoys for the Salvation Army office in Houlton, are eagerly looking forward to the next few months, even though they know it means an increased strain on the organization’s finances.
    Last year, 130 families received food cards, while the number of families who received presents was “significantly higher.”
    “With so many people needing our help, it’s vital for us to work cooperatively with Toys for Tots and the Aid for Kids organizations in the area,” Damon Hayward said. “We have to make sure that the needs of individuals and families are being met. If we don’t, there is an increased risk that those that really need our help might slip through the cracks.”    
    The annual Salvation Army “Red Kettle” campaign begins Friday, Nov. 22. Kettles will once again be located outside of Walmart in both Presque Isle and Houlton, as well as many grocery stores in the Presque Isle, Houlton and Caribou areas.
    Finding people to volunteer their time as bell ringers is always a challenge, Damon said. Night shifts are naturally the hardest to fill.
    “If we had 15 bell ringers, who were dedicated and stay with it for the season, that would cover it,” he said. “Some don’t make it a day, so we have to have people we can call.”
    The Salvation Army hires a few individuals to serve as bell ringers, but most of them are volunteers. Families or individuals that want to volunteer for just one day or night are also welcome.
    Damon explained that for every $1 donated into the kettle, 83 cents goes to the program, while 17 percent goes for administration.
    “Everyone is coming forward late this year for some reason,” Damon said. “It could be because Thanksgiving is later this year. We’re hoping and praying that it (volunteerism) explodes after Thanksgiving.”
    The Haywards said they need to raise at least $66,000 from their kettle campaign.
    “That may sound like a lot of money to some, but when you stop to think about all of the fuel oil, all the electricity, gasoline and emergency shelter, it goes quickly,” Damon said.
    Because all of the money collected through the kettle drive is used for heat, utilities and food assistance, and not for toys, the Salvation Army will be placing “Angel Trees” at Walmart and Mardens in Presque Isle and Houlton, as well as JC Penney in Presque Isle. An Angel Tree is a Christmas tree filled with tags bearing the age and sex of a child or parent, along with a suggested item for people to purchase. Those wanting to help with presents may take the tag off the tree, purchase the gift, and drop it off with the tag to the Salvation Army headquarters or Thrift Stores.
    Presents are collected for children age 16 and younger and will be distributed to needy families on Friday, Dec. 20.
    For more information, contact the Haywards at 532-2322.