The Salvation Army angel trees are full of the names of kids hoping to find new clothes and toys under their Christmas tree. They're presents their parents hope the Salvation Army can help deliver. The agency hopes it can meet the need too, especially since the requests for help this year are up. "The economy has fueled some needs and this year we've seen a 17-percent increase in registration and most of those are new people who have never registered with us before," says Gulfport Salvation Army Major Derrell Kingsbury.
While the Salvation Army tries to make the angel's Christmas wishes come true, the agency also wishes more people would drop money into the red kettles. Bell ringer Randall Stratz says kettle donations are better some days than others. "Yes, it's fair. It's not the best but it could be better but people give what they feel," says Stratz.
The more people drop into the kettles, the easier it is for the Salvation Army to continue helping others. Kingsbury says a quarter to a third of next year's operating budget comes from kettle collections. "Because once we've paid for Christmas the money that's left goes to help pay utility bills, rents, prescriptions, help operate our Center of Hope which is our shelters and our feeding programs so it's very, very important we get every penny that we can this time of year." There are fewer kettle locations this year but the agency still needs bell ringers. If you'd like to volunteer to man a kettle, call the Salvation Army at 868-1188.