The Salvation Army is beginning its seventh Santa Fund event. The Santa Fund is a joint partnership between the Salvation Army and the Williamsport Sun-Gazette to raise awareness of the needs within the community.
Letters to Santa, written by Salvation Army employees, will be featured daily from the week of Thanksgiving until Christmas in the Lifestyle section.
Letter writers will include Captain Debbie Engle, co-commanding officer of the Salvation Army; Tony Perrotta, public relations and program and fund development director; and Amy McGovern, social services supervisor. It also is the hope of the Salvation Army that a few of the stories will be written by volunteers of the organization.
This is the second year the letters will be published in the Sun-Gazette. They feature stories of local families, with the names changed to protect their identity. The letters also feature personal thoughts and experiences from the writers.
Perrotta said last year's Santa Fund was very well received and provided awareness of programs and services offered by the Salvation Army.
"Funds raised from last year's event totaled $1,312," Perrotta said. "Less than previous years, but the impact with the Santa Fund stories cannot be measured by dollars alone. The stories presented have made a positive impact."
|Captain Debbie’s story|
|I woke up this morning with great excitement on my heart! This morning we will start rehearsing our Christmas musical at church with the kids and adults and it’s also the day to set up and decorate the trees at the Lycoming Mall for the Festival of Trees.|
|While these activities will bring much fun and enjoyment to us, I also have a heavy burden on my heart for those who aren’t feeling much joy this time of year. Many are the anxieties that are on the minds of those in our community.|
|Food stamps have been cut. Health care has changed drastically and remains uncertain. People have had hours cut back on their jobs or have been let go due to a strained economy. Maybe they just haven’t been able to find a job at all. Santa, we at The Salvation Army have made a commitment to do our best to be a beacon of hope to those who are down-hearted and in despair.|
|My husband reminded us just recently at a meeting with the words from this song by American songwriter and composer Meredith Willson:|
|“Could you love the unloved, never reckoning the cost|
|Giving them comfort and care?|
|Could you seek the unloved, in the legion of the lost,|
|Sharing their grief and despair?|
|That’s the creed of an Army, a God-fearing Army,|
|With banners and bonnets they come.|
|Yes, to love the unloved in the spirit of the Lord,|
|Marching with trumpet and drum,|
|With banners and bonnets they come!”|
|Santa, I pray we will see people the way God sees them and we can continue this season to show them His love, mercy and compassion that will bring them the assurance they need.|
|You’re such a good listener Santa ... I look forward to talking to you again soon!|
|Please help by giving generously to the Sun-Gazette and the Salvation Army Santa Fund.|
|You can help make this a brighter holiday season for local families by making a contribution in person to any branch of M&T Bank or by mail to M&T Bank at 405 River Ave.; at the Salvation Army, 457 Market St.; or the Sun-Gazette office, 252 W. Fourth St., Williamsport, PA 17701.|
|The Santa Fund is a fundraiser organized by the Sun-Gazette and the Salvation Army to help local families in need.|
An account was created at M&T Bank to help collect the funds. Donations may be dropped off or mailed into the following locations: M&T Bank, 405 River Ave.; Salvation Army, 457 Market St.; or the Williamsport Sun-Gazette office, 252 W. Fourth St., Williamsport, PA 17701.
Money raised through the Santa Fund helps to provide families in need with a Christmas dinner and clothes and toys to children ages 12 and younger.
"Our primary motivation and hopes for the upcoming Santa Fund stories will be continued awareness of programs and services provided by the Salvation Army to those in need within our community, as well as providing much needed financial support," Perrotta said.
In the past six years, more than $20,000 has been raised through the Santa Fund for the Salvation Army, according to Perrotta.
Santa Fund is just one of the many fundraising activities offered by the Salvation Army. It also operates two thrift stores, one in Newberry and one in Pennsdale. Also, this time of year brings the bell ringing Red Kettle drive to many locations throughout the county.
For more information, visit www.salvationarmywilliamsport.org or search Salvation Army in Williamsport on Facebook.