SALEM - Shoppers can help the Salvation Army grant Christmas wishes of area families by filling a truck with toys, coats and clothes at the Salem Walmart from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
"We'll take any donation of new coats or toys for kids for the holiday season," Salem Salvation Army Lt. Jason Price said Thursday.
As part of a nationwide effort, Walmart and the Salvation Army have teamed up to Fill the Truck for Kids, an event to gather unwrapped gifts across the country to distribute to families and children in need.
Price said this is the first year for the joint partnership event. A U-Haul truck will be parked at Walmart on East State Street during the day for people to donate items such as toys, coats and other clothing. He asked that people don't wrap the gifts so they can distribute them to the appropriate age group.
The Salvation Army already had signups for their Christmas program, but he said they've been getting calls every day and now have a waiting list for people needing help.
"There is a larger need in the community this year and more kids we're trying to help," he said, noting the numbers have risen from about 650 children last year to closer to 700 this year.
He blamed the rising numbers on the economy, saying that the times are hurting more families and they're looking for assistance this year.
"If we don't do good on Saturday, we might not have enough toys to fill the applications," he said.
In that case, they'll have to use cash donations to purchase toys to meet the need. He said kids like toys of any kind, so they're not looking for certain types. Board games are always a good choice, along with dolls, action figures or movies.
Price and his wife Kristin, also a Lieutenant with the Salvation Army, have been in the Salem community about a year and half and he said the local businesses and residents give a lot and have been very generous. He said the local Walmart has good people and he's thankful they're taking part.
The Salvation Army is also in the midst of its annual red kettle campaign, with volunteer bell ringers collecting donations at different spots throughout the city to help people in need throughout the year.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org