BY CAROL ROEHM
DANVILLE — An increase in the number of families requesting a Christmas food basket this year has prompted the Danville Salvation Army to appeal to the community for donations of canned food items.
The organization at 855 E. Fairchild St., a United Way of Danville Area agency, provides the annual food baskets for families in need so they can prepare a holiday ham dinner.
Sharon Sawka, director of social services, said this year’s basket will include a ham, yams and brown sugar and vegetables.
“Since we’re part of the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, we’re able to order vegetables on a grand scale for less than what we would pay at a store,” she said.
This year, 881 families in Danville and Vermilion County signed up to receive food baskets. In past years, a few hundred families were “adopted” by churches, local businesses and a police benevolence group that provided food for the baskets, Sawka said. This year, however, one group chose not to participate in the food basket program, leaving the Salvation Army to provide food baskets for the remaining 650 families. Last year, the Salvation Army filled 385 food baskets.
Sawka said the organization spent $15,000 on food for the baskets, but needs donations of canned food items to add to the baskets.
“Canned goods are the big thing – fruits and vegetables,” Captain Judy Lowder said. “Or they can give monetarily and we’ll buy the food.”
Anyone interested in dropping off canned food items can do so between 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Salvation Army’s headquarters.
Sawka attributed the high number of families seeking assistance to the economy. To be eligible for a food basket, families have to meet certain income guidelines. The baskets will be distributed between 9 a.m. and noon on Dec. 20.
For the third year, the local Salvation Army has partnered with the Danville Elks 332 to provide new and used coats for children and adults in the community. Burlington at the Village Mall also has donated coats this year.
Coats are available between 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays at the Salvation Army.