Just in time for the holidays

Salvation Army Santa Fund raises $695 this year

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Pictured, from left, are Tammy Burke, Salvation Army social services coordinator and project break through case manager; Major Donald Spencer, Salvation Army Corps officer; Bernard A. Oravec, Williamsport Sun-Gazette Publisher; Jordan Musheno, Williamsport Sun-Gazette Lifestyle and Education editor; and Tony Perrotta, Salvation Army public relations and program & fund development.

More than 21 thousand dollars — that’s the amount of money that the community has generously donated through the Salvation Army Santa Fund to put warm clothes on their neighbors’ backs, to see that fire victims are cared for and to ensure that the downtrodden have a place to lay their heads at night. The Salvation Army works year-round to meet the needs of those in the community who are facing these unexpected hardships and so many more.

One young mom with three kids lost her home to a fire, along with all the wrapped Christmas gifts, just in time for Christmas. Another father of six was laid off from a good-paying job only a few weeks before the holidays. And a grandmother relying on social security was given custody of two grandchildren when their parents could no longer care for them, expected to pay the bills and provide a joyful season for these dear ones. These are only a few of the very real stories facing the Salvation Army clients.

But, fortunately, according to Tony Perrotta, PR, program & fund development, readers are made more aware of those living in poverty, and families that are in crisis due to loss of income, illness or other emergencies. Dollars raised will allow the Salvation Army to keep the doors open to its food pantry, emergency assistance programs, life skills classes, youth and senior programs, emergency disaster aid, Christmas assistance, summer camps and the Red Shield Community Garden.

This year’s Santa Fund program, which is supported by the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, raised $695.

“In the Christmas season, the Salvation Army provided help for over 1,333 men, women and children, including 400 Christmas food baskets, 682 warm weather clothing and 9,168 toys for children in the community,” Perrotta said.

Publisher Bernard A. Oravec said that, as the community newspaper, the Sun-Gazette is proud of its partnership with the Salvation Army.

“The Salvation Army serves many in need within our readership area and has a stellar reputation for spending donations wisely,” he said.

He added that the Sun-Gazette always finds time and print space for charitable organizations. He couldn’t stress enough how important organizations like the Salvation Army are to raising the quality of life for those in need in both spiritual and material services.

“Knowing that these donations support the needs of location families is very special to me,” Oravec said. “I am very proud of our staff, readers and subscribers. They are always willing to help those in need through charitable donations and support. It is simply the right thing to do.”

The Salvation Army pairs the annual Santa Fund drive with its Red Kettle Campaign. It began as a sign that read “Keep the Pot Boiling” in 1891, when Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army captain in California, felt the need to help the vast number of poor people living in the area by offering a holiday meal. He was able to feed the hungry that year and, today, countless volunteers brave the cold temperatures to ring the bells at various locations.

Feeding the poor is a tradition that continues for the local Salvation Army. The Red Shield Community Garden, the organization’s newest program, has been expanding each year in an effort to continue “helping people, teaching people, feeding people.” According to the Salvation Army, this anti-discriminatory program, located at 724 Park Ave., empowers the Williamsport community by providing the opportunity to plant, grow and harvest their own produce; educate individuals and families about the value of gardening; and donate the abundance of vegetables to local nonprofits. In fact, this year, the organization reportedly helped six local food pantries and soup kitchens provide fresh produce to their clients, while working with 15 local organizations.

Volunteers are the backbone of this local branch of the Salvation Army, which doesn’t just offer a hand out, but, rather, a hand up. The programs offered there — supported by generous donations such as those raised through the Santa Fund campaign — help individuals move from the reliance on assistance to being self-sufficient, contributing members of society.

It is especially important during the holiday season that the community considers those who may be struggling, Oravec said.

“Many going through tough circumstances feel the most pain over the holidays,” he said. “The love and comfort offered by the Salvation Army is sometimes just what an individual or family needs to feel part of his or her community again. Christmas is the perfect time to share with others.”

It is never too late to give. Donations for the Salvation Army Santa Fund still are being accepted at any branch of M&T Bank; through the mail at M&T Bank, 405 River Ave.; or at the Salvation Army, 457 Market St., or the Sun-Gazette, 252 W. Fourth St.