Organizers of the local Holiday Helpline could use some help themselves next week in registering people for assistance programs that provide gifts and food.

The Holiday Helpline needs at least 20 more people to answer phones beginning Monday through Dec. 2, according to United Way 2-1-1 of South Central Indiana. A brief training session is done before a volunteer’s first shift.

Volunteer commitments can be for a few hours each week or for just a few days approaching holiday season. Volunteers can begin later than Monday, according to the 2-1-1 staff.

Holiday Helpline registers people for the Community Center of Hope Angel Tree, Firemen’s Cheer Fund, Shop with a Cop and the Love Chapel Holiday Food Pantry.

Meanwhile, two other programs that began registering struggling families last week already expect this year’s need to be greater than last year’s record numbers.

Although Christmas currently seems as distant as Santa’s workshop, registration for gifts and food help began last week for the Salvation Army Angel Tree and for the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Center Angels of Love programs.

The Angels of Love program, which purchases gifts for Bartholomew County children and teens through age 18, helped 588 youth last year, said Diane Doup, Lincoln-Central community outreach coordinator.

“We are planning for that many or more this year,” Doup said. “A lot of folks are hitting a financial cliff, and they are trying to meet their growing needs with the same income level.”

The number of young people assisted last year was significantly more than the 528 helped in 2014.

For some, the growing need is medical help, or an increase in housing expenses.

The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program allows residents to purchase gifts for children up to age 15 by taking a gift tag from Christmas trees erected throughout the city. That program also saw record numbers of people in need last year, said Capt. Alan Sladek, one of the local Salvation Army leaders.

Last week’s initial registration time shows the need to be at least as great as in 2015.

“We were already slammed,” Sladek said.

Last year, holiday assistance programs helped a combined 2,064 families, according to figures provided by 2-1-1.

Help lines opening

Holiday help for low- to middle-income struggling families includes:

  • United Way Holiday Helpline 2-1-1 (starting Monday): Registers families for gifts with the Community Center of Hope, Angel Tree, Firemen’s Cheer Fund, Shop with a Cop, and the Love Chapel Holiday Food Pantry. Line will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Dec. 2. 812-375-2216.
  • Angels of Love (now open): Purchases gifts for Bartholomew County children and teens 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 Information: 812-379-1630 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays or
  • Salvation Army Angel Tree (now open): Purchasing gifts for children through age 15. Salvation Army applicants are asked to bring photo IDs of all adults 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 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

You can help

United Way of Bartholomew County 211 needs more volunteer phone specialists to register families for the annual Holiday Helpline opening Monday at the Doug Otto Center, 1531 13th St. in Columbus.

If you are at least 16 years old and can talk well on the phone, you’re a good candidate to take information. Contact Dede Parker, volunteer resource manager, at 812-376-0011 or

Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.