The Danville Salvation Army hopes to make Christmas a little brighter and warmer for local families. The organization at 855 E. Fairchild St., a United Way of Danville Area agency, will provide families in need with toys, food baskets and coats just in time for Christmas.
Sharon Sawka, director of social services, said families just finished signing up for food baskets that will include all the ingredients for a family feast. The food baskets will be distributed Dec. 20.
This year’s basket will include a turkey or a ham, but the trimmings might be a little different than in years past.
“It’s a good Christmas dinner,” Sawka said.
This year, at least 900 families signed up to receive food baskets — more than the 843 households that signed up last year — by Thursday’s deadline, according to caseworker Karen Kirby.
Of those households, 200 to 300 have been adopted by churches, local businesses and a police benevolence group that will provide food for the baskets, Kirby said. The Salvation Army provides the food baskets for the remaining families.
Kirby attributed the high number of families seeking assistance to the economy and that the process to sign up for assistance was easier this year.
“We haven’t turned anyone down, but they still had a (income) guideline to follow,” she said.
Kirby said the ministry felt it could provide more families with food baskets this year, thanks to the Salvation Army’s partnership with the East Central Illinois Food Bank and the success of the Danville Mass Transit’s Season of Giving, in which bus riders filled totes with nonperishable food items for the Salvation Army in exchange for a pass entitling them to five free DMT rides.
“The DMT riders are providing some of the ingredients for the baskets,” she said.
Additional food items for the baskets will be ordered from the food bank, she said.
“We’re going to find a way to feed these people,” Kirby said. “I know the good Lord is going to take care of it.”
Toys for Tots
The Salvation Army also has teamed up with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots, as in past years.
The Salvation Army will distribute the new, unwrapped toys for children 12 and younger starting at 8 a.m. Dec. 12 at St. James Church at North Vermilion and Williams streets.
The toys will be sorted and arranged according to age groups so parents can shop for age-appropriate items for their children.
“We separate them by age group, so it’s really easy,” Kirby said.
“I enjoy being there and seeing their (parents’) faces,” she said. “You’re not going to find an xBox, but still these are really nice toys.”
Families who signed up with the Salvation Army will be given a specific time to pick up the toys on the distribution day.
“There will be no children allowed in the church, and we ask that the parents bring their own trash bag to put the toys in,” Kirby said.
Not all of the families receiving toys this year will be from the Danville area. A couple of years ago the toy distribution was opened up to families living in parts of Warren, Fountain and Vermillion counties in Indiana.
Jeff Wakeland, the Toys for Tots coordinator with the Major Kenneth D. Bailey Detachment No. 824 of the Marine Corps League, said he discovered a couple of years ago that families in certain areas of Indiana weren’t being included in the Toys for Tots distribution out of Terre Haute, so he invited them to sign up for Danville’s toy distribution.
Kirby said that while Indiana families will be able to shop for toys, they will not be eligible for Danville Salvation Army’s food baskets.
“They had to sign up here, and even though we can’t give them a food basket, they can shop for toys and a lot of times that’s the hardest thing for parents to do,” she said. “I’m tickled we can do that for them.”
Kirby said she expects 500 to 600 families — possibly more when the Indiana families are included — will receive toys during this year’s distribution.
Wakeland said toy donations have been down this year, but he’s hopeful this weekend will bring more donations.
“The (toy donation) barrels will still be out this weekend,” he said, adding that all of the toy donation barrels will be collected by Dec. 7.
For the second year, the local Salvation Army has partnered with the Danville Elks 332 to provide coats for children in the community.
The Elks are collecting the coats that will be distributed by the Salvation Army.
“Three dry cleaners also have agreed to clean the coats for free,” Sawka said.
Last year, the Elks’ 12 collection sites brought in about 300 new and good used children/youth coats along with hats, caps, gloves, mittens and scarves. The Elks have more than 20 collection sites around the community this year.
“We’ll give the coats away to anyone who needs it,” Sawka said.
She added that donations of adult coats also are welcomed “because we have older kids who can wear an adult size coat.”
Kirby said 20 coats that were donated by NACCO employees were given away on Wednesday.