The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

December 25, 2011

It takes an Army

The Salvation Army provides children with a good Christmas

While The Salvation Army works in the community all year long, its members are most active and visible around the Christmas holiday.

This year, the local Salvation Army, located at 312 S. Fayette St., will serve 476 families throughout Raleigh, Fayette, Summers and Wyoming counties, providing Christmas across the region, said Capt. Robert Barber.

Barber explained that The Salvation Army has been in southern West Virginia since the mid-1980s.

Many families are referred to them through the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, but anyone can submit an application for their children to be placed on Angel Trees.

“By the end of September we start accepting applications. What makes us a little different is that we base our decision on available income, not total income,” Barber explained. “Many families can manage their mortgage or car payments, but there just isn’t enough money for Christmas.”

The Salvation Army serves children 12 and under, but also tries to provide something for older children.

After individuals adopt a child from the Angel Tree, volunteers make sure children in the same family have equal numbers of toys and they try to do something special for older siblings who are over 12.

“We don’t do toys for the teens, but we still try to make sure there is something special for them if we can and we try to provide parents the opportunity to feel like they are a part of it by wrapping the gifts and giving them to the kids,” he said.

For many of the older kids, they try to provide clothing items or hats and gloves.

For Barber, helping to make sure children have a good Christmas is close to his heart.

“When I was a junior in high school my dad lost his business. For Christmas dinner we had Hamburger Helper without the hamburger. I remember clearly that dad did not get a check until after Jan. 1. That was life-changing for me because I did not realize how well off I had it growing up until I didn’t have it,” he said.

“Since then and since I became a part of The Salvation Army, the idea of kids going through the holidays without Christmas is hard, even older kids. They need to know there is something special about the holiday.”

Most of the money raised ringing bells at area stores is to purchase toys and other items for The Salvation Army Christmas giveaway.

In addition, donations go to the ongoing food pantry and to support utilities at the office/chapel location on Fayette Street.

Their food pantry, said Barber, is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and those referred through DHHR can receive a food basket every 90 days.

The Salvation Army does do special Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets and this year they spent around $15,000 on food (above and beyond donations of food) for needy families during Thanksgiving, he said.

“In the last couple of years the demand for food baskets has continued to grow and grow. Two years ago we averaged less than 40 families a week. Now we average 50 to 60 families throughout the year. Just last month we distributed food baskets to 169 families,” Barber shared.

In addition to these ministries, the organization has funds to help with utility bills as needed and participates with the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, providing vouchers for clothing and food to flood, fire and homeless victims, he said.

Often the organization teams up with the Women’s Resource Center and helps furnish apartments for victims of domestic abuse.

The Salvation Army can be seen helping with disaster relief, most recently during floods in the Beaver area and during the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

On Thursday nights The Salvation Army has a character-building program for underprivileged, school-age  youth and in much the same fashion as the original ministry, The Salvation Army offers a Sunday church service that includes breakfast and lunch to folks in need.

You can help support The Salvation Army through monetary and food donations and by supporting their thrift stores with donations.

The organization is also having a coat, hat and glove drive through the end of January. These items can be dropped off at their headquarters, 312 S. Fayette St.

To ask about volunteering in other ways, you can reach The Salvation Army by phone at 304-253-9541.

— E-mail: splummer

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