Salvation Army's Angel Trees Future Uncertain - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/23/05

Salvation Army's Angel Trees Future Uncertain

Could Katrina become the Grinch that stole Christmas? Not if the Salvation Army can help it.

Officials with the charitable organization say they've been so busy providing disaster relief that they haven't had time to think about anything else.

That is until now.

This week the Biloxi Salvation Army will get together to discuss their annual holiday assistance program.

The organization is determined to make it a good holiday season this year no matter what.

Katrina damaged their home.

Now Emie Eldridge worries Christmas may break her children's hearts.

"I'm thinking about this coming Christmas that maybe they're not going to have much or any gifts," said Eldridge.

The parents of young children go to the Biloxi Salvation Army looking for baby food, clothing and diapers.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, charity workers expect parents to come looking for holiday help as well.

Major Don Wildish said "We usually begin our Christmas Assistance applications at the first part of September. Well, now we're towards the end of October and we haven't taken our first Christmas application. Will that affect our Christmas and how will that roll out? Well, I don't know."

What the Salvation Army does know is that last Christmas, it gave gifts and food to 600 families.

So far, 8,000 families have applied for disaster relief with the Biloxi Salvation Army and most are expected to need help buying Christmas gifts.

"The need for Christmas assistance is going to be much larger than its ever been on the Gulf Coast," said Major Wildish. "So many homes have been affected with Katrina that many of the families are going to be looking for Christmas assistance that maybe have never asked for Christmas assistance in the past."

The need could be too much for the Gulf Coast to handle so Wildish is looking for outside resources.

"We are also anticipating that donations are going to be extremely low," he said. "Many of the donors that have donated to us in the past have been affected by Katrina. The extra money that they would have to give and donate to the Salvation Army to help us do what we do, that money just is not going to be available to them this year."

Emie Eldridge says she's preparing her children for what could be an empty Christmas tree.

"I'm trying to explain to them that the really the reason for Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ and the reason why He came to this world."

Biloxi Salvation Army officials say they need more local volunteers since the amount of out of town assistance is starting to dwindle. If you can help, just stop by Yankie Stadium between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

By Danielle Thomas

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