Christmas can seem as far away as the North Pole at the moment.
But for families who will need help making the holidays bright, now is the time to act.
The Columbus Salvation Army begins taking applications for its Angel Tree program at 9 a.m. today at 812-372-7118. The program is for children and teens (through age 16), providing toys and clothes.
Program volunteers bought toys or other gifts for 425 young people last year — and provided for nearly 500 people in 2013, according to statistics from the nonprofit, social service agency.
“Christmas should be a time of anticipation and joy, especially for children,” said Capt. Jodi Sladek, who leads the The Salvation Army with husband, Alan Sladek. “But for many of the parents in our community, Christmas season sometimes serves as a sad reminder of the fact that they are struggling to meet just the basic needs of their families. The Salvation Army hopes that we can help make Christmas brighter for many children and needy families within our community.”
The Salvation Army applicants are asked to bring photo IDs of all those living within the household (driver’s license, medical card, birth certificate) and proof of address. Individuals must have these items in order to begin filling out application for assistance.
Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center began taking applications for its Angels of Love program — the second largest holiday outreach to the Firemen’s Cheer Fund — Thursday and will run registration through Oct. 31 at 812-379-1630.
But staffers began getting phone calls as soon as Labor Day, according to Lincoln-Central’s Diane Doup.
“Families wanted to make sure they didn’t miss the deadlines,” Doup said.
Angels of Love bought gifts for a record 528 children and teens through age 18 last year, according to Doup. Application forms are available on Lincoln-Central website at lcnfc.org and also its office at 1039 Sycamore St. in Columbus.
Angels of Love operates on the honor system of a family’s stated need. Doup said that is intentional.
“You never know, despite someone’s income, when they might have outstanding medical bills from an unexpected illness or a sudden job loss,” Doup said.
Alicia McCreary, director of the local United Way 2-1-1 South Central Indiana, mentioned that her intake volunteers for the Holiday Helpline Oct. 19 through Dec. 4 will ask a caller’s income — but only as a general level of need. The ideal aim of the Holiday Helpline is to provide seasonal assistance for low- and moderate-income families, according to McCreary.
“A number is not set in stone,” she said.
“And a certain income level doesn’t always rule someone out.”
Holiday Helpline registers people for the Community Center of Hope Angel Tree, Fireman’s Cheer Fund, Shop with a Cop, and the Love Chapel Holiday Food Pantry.
Holiday help for low- to middle-income struggling families includes:
- Angels of Love (now open): Purchases gifts for children and teens from birth through age 18. Applicants must fill out a registration form, available at the front door of Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center’s office at 1039 Sycamore St. in Columbus or online at lcnfc.org. Information: 812-379-1630 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays or lcnfc.org.
- Salvation Army Angel Tree (now open): Purchasing gifts for children from birth to age 15. Salvation Army applicants are asked to bring photo IDs of all those living within the household (driver’s license, medical card, birth certificate) and proof of address. Individuals must have these items in order to begin filling out application for assistance. Information: 812-372-7118 from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
- United Way Holiday Helpline 211 (beginning Oct. 19): Registers families for gifts with the Community Center of Hope Angel Tree, Fireman’s Cheer Fund, Shop with a Cop, and the Love Chapel Holiday Food Pantry.
The Columbus Salvation Army is a prime agency helping the less fortunate throughout the year — fueled by money collected through its annual Red Kettle campaign.
And the nonprofit, social service agency is seeking bell ringers for that effort.
Organizers are asking people to consider a two-hour shift for the cause beginning next month.
To volunteer: 812-372-7118 or registertorring.com.