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Salvation Army seeing greater need for holiday assistance

Dorothy Newberry of Willmar volunteers as Tuesday a bell ringer for The Salvation Army at Cash Wise Foods in Willmar. So far donations to the kettle fund are ahead of last year's pace in Kandiyohi County. However, The Salvation Army is hoping to find more volunteers to assist its fundraising efforts as the organization is expecting to serve more people this year than ever before. Tribune photo by Bill Zimmer

WILLMAR -- The Salvation Army will be bringing Christmas cheer to more homes in Kandiyohi County than ever before.

This year's Christmas meals and toys-for-tots programs will bring holiday gifts to 478 homes, as compared to 410 in the previous year, said Debbie Stahl of The Salvation Army's Willmar office. She and her husband, Randy, are co-administrators with the local Salvation Army.

The toys program will provide two toys, a clothing article, and a stocking stuffer such as a book to more than 1,000 children in the county this year, according to Stahl.

The Salvation Army is receiving more requests this year from people who have been laid off from jobs or had their work hours cut.

A familiar case this year is the recent call from a young mother. She told Stahl that she had her work hours cut. She is worried about how to pay her bills and said she cannot buy Christmas presents for her young children.

Stahl said that like every year, the Salvation Army also helps a large number of people who are experiencing economic difficulties due to illness and health problems that keep them from working and burden them with large medical bills.

The good news this year is that people seem to understand just how much the needs have grown, and are responding in kind. Stahl said that donations to the kettle fund were running about $3,000 ahead when compared to this time last year. She praised the Kandiyohi County community's generosity, and added that she hopes the support can continue.

She noted that the donations to the kettle fund are critical, since they support Salvation Army operations through the year. "They help us help people,'' Stahl said.

She said it is very fulfilling to see the smiles on the faces of children and parents as the holiday gifts are delivered. She's had many grateful parents tell her: "I didn't know what I was going to do.''

Donations to the toys-for-tots program also appear to be keeping pace with the growing need, but Stahl said more items are still needed. The greatest need is for items suitable for boys and girls ages 15 to 18. Everything from basketballs to colognes and perfumes are appropriate gifts for this age group, she said.

Donations for the toys program will be accepted through Friday.

Volunteer help is needed for the toys program. She said people who can help lift things are needed between 7 and 8 a.m. Dec. 18 at the Salvation Army headquarters, 521 Fourth St. S.W., Willmar.

Volunteers are also needed to distribute the holiday meal baskets and toys from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. on Dec. 18 and 19.

Call the Salvation Army at 320-235-2033 for more information.